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Meet the Uttarakhand high court judges who made Ganga, Yamuna living entities

Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh, who passed these orders, have made other landmark decisions that have now earned them an image of no less than environment crusaders.

dehradun Updated: Apr 03, 2017 12:54 IST
Ganga,Yamuna,Himalayan glaciers
Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma have delivered several landmark judgements that have made them no less than environment crusaders.

After granting living status to the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the Uttarakhand high court has done the same for Himalayan glaciers, from where the rivers originate, and virtually every creation of nature in the Himalayan state.

The division bench of the court comprising judges Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh, who passed these orders, have made other landmark decisions that have now earned them an image of no less than environment crusaders.

Here is a brief profile on them:


Justice Rajiv Sharma, who joined Uttarakhand high court in September last year, served as a judge of the Himachal Pradesh high court. During his nine-year tenure there, Justice Sharma gave several landmark judgments, including ordering a blanket ban on animal sacrifice in religious places.

Justice Sharma was appointed an additional judge of the Himachal Pradesh high court on April 3, 2007. Later, he became a permanent judge of the court on March 31, 2013. Born and brought up in Shimla, he began his career in 1982.


Before assuming charge as a judge of the Uttarakhand high court in February 2013, Justice Alok Singh served as a judge in Jharkhand high court and Punjab and Haryana high court.

A native of Roorkee in Uttarakhand, he did his schooling and college education from Roorkee and Saharanpur and began his career in erstwhile Uttar Pradesh in 1982 and represented UP state electricity board, UP Awas Vikas Parishad, etc.

Here are some of the landmark rulings the two judges have given:

According Legal Status To Glaciers: On March 31, the bench declared Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers as living entities. The glaciers that feed Ganga and Yamuna rivers are considered sacred by millions of Indians. The status meant that the rivers and the glaciers have the right to be legally protected and if anyone harms or pollutes them, law would view it as no different from harming a person.

Sealing Hotels, Ashrams Polluting The Ganga: The bench on March 30 told Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board to seal hotels, ashrams and industrial units in Haridwar for polluting the Ganga by discharging untreated waste into the river. The order is likely to affect some 700 odd hotels in Haridwar-Rishikesh belt.

Making Ganga, Yamuna Living Entities: The bench on March 3 declared the Ganga and Yamuna living entities, bestowing on them same legal rights as a person. The order allows complaints to be filed in the name of the two rivers, held sacred by millions of Hindus.

Banning Liquor In Three Districts: On November 8, 2016, the bench asked authorities to impose complete prohibition on alcohol including beer in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts from April 1, although the Supreme Court stayed the order after the BJP government moved it on April 1. The fabled Char Dham shrines—Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri—are located in these three districts.

Imposing Glacier Tax On Tourists: On November 11, 2016, the bench directed the state government to impose a ‘glacier tax’ on tourists visiting the Himalayas. Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), the court observed that there was large scale degradation of the ecology in the Himalayas and glaciers were “rapidly depleting”.

First Published: Apr 03, 2017 12:48 IST