Data source
Date of text
29 Apr 1992
Country
Original language

English

Type of text
National - higher court
Reference number
AIR 1992 Bom 471, 1994 (1) MhLj 21
Court name
Mumbai High Court
Justice(s)
Kamat., M.P.
Sources
InforMEA
Keywords
conservation, ecosystem approach, ecosystem management, ecosystem preservation, Ecosystem restoration, ecosystem service

A writ petition was filed in the Bombay High Court by a Society asking the Court to compel the Railway Corporation to procure environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the EPA, 1986 for the part of alignment passing through Goa. The petitioner claimed that the proposed alignment is wholly destructive of the environment and the ecosystem and violates Art. 21 of the Constitution. The grievance of the petitioners was that the proposed alignment was planned and undertaken without an adequate Environment Impact Assessment and Environment Management Plan. The petitioner also claimed that the Corporation had violated the the coastal regulation zone CRZ notification. According to the petitioner, although the ecological damage due to the proposed project will not be immediately visible, the damage will be gradual and will lead to the deterioration of the land quality effecting a large number of people. In particular the project would have a disastrous consequence on the low lying Khazan paddy fields. The Khazan fields lie below the sea level and have a unique natural biological eco-system of mangroves and fish life, and are among the most fertile nurseries of fish life.
The Court after review the argument and the facts presented before it, refused to exercise its writ jurisdiction over a matter of national importance and significance. The extent of damage is negligible and public project of this kind will fulfil the long standing aspirations of the people on the west coast. According to the Court "no development is possible without some adverse effect on the ecology and environment." Further the Court interpreted the meaning of Central Government in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 in an extended way: since the project is approved by the Central Government and the Railway Ministry is carrying out the project, the Corporation can use forest land for non-forest purpose. But Central Government as mentioned in Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 means the Ministry of Environment & Forest and not any other Ministry. The Court also held out that the project cannot be challenged on the ground that it violated the provisions of the EPA. The reason being that Section 11 of the Railway Act, 1989 allows the Railway Administration to construct over any lands, hill, valley stream etc. According to the Court the wide ambit of the provision of Section 11 and the non obstante clause makes it extremely clear that the provisions of the environment acts do not bind the construction or maintenance of a railway line.