Citizens had apprehension against the construction of a grid station in a residential area and sent a letter to the Supreme Court for consideration as a human rights case. The Court found that the letter raised two questions: Namely, whether any Government agency had the right to endanger the life of citizens by its actions without the latter’s consent; and secondly, whether zoning laws vested rights in citizens which cannot be withdrawn or altered without the citizens’ consent.
Considering the gravity of the matter which might have involved and affected the life and health of the citizens at large, notice was issued to the Authority.
The Court emphasized that the trend of the opinion of scientists and scholars was that the likelihood of adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on human health could not be ruled out. The subject was highly technical, so the Supreme Court declined to give a definite finding particularly because the experts and technical evidence produced was inconclusive. It observed that under such circumstances, the balance should be struck between the rights of the citizens and also the plans which were executed by the Authority for the welfare, economic progress and prosperity of the country.
If there were threats of serious danger, effective measures should be taken to control it and should not be postponed merely on the ground that the scientific research and studies were uncertain and not conclusive. One should not wait for conclusive finding as it might take very long to find it, so preventive and precautionary measures should be taken straightaway (Precautionary Principle).
The Court appointed a Commission to examine the plan and the proposals of the Authority in the light of the complaint made by the citizens. It should submit its report and suggest any alteration or addition which may be economically possible in relation to the construction and location of the grid station.
The Court then examined Art. 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which provided that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law. It explained that the word ”life” could not be restricted to the mere existence from conception to death. A wide meaning should be given to it, which might include proper food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, clean atmosphere and unpolluted environment. A person was entitled to protection of law from being exposed of hazards of electromagnetic fields or any other such hazards which may be due to the installation and construction of any grid station or such like installations.
A large number of citizens throughout the country could not make a representation to seek an injunction in connection with this entitlement though, because of ignorance, poverty and disability. Therefore Article 184 of the Constitution, which provides for public interest litigation, could be invoked.
The Authority was directed that in future prior to installing or constructing any grid station, it would issue public notice in newspapers, radio and television inviting objections, if any, by affording public hearing to the person filing objections.