Uttarakhand govt moves SC against Ganga’s living entity status
The BJP government in Uttarakhand has moved the Supreme Court to relieve it of the duty of being the legal guardian of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
Challenging a three-month-old verdict of the Uttarakhand High Court declaring the Ganga and Yamuna living entities, bestowing on them same legal rights as a person, the state government contended that the verdict as “unsustainable in the law” and had various legal repercussions.
The plea asked that in case of human casualties in a flood, can the affected people file suit for damages against the Chief Secretary of the State and as to whether State Government would be liable to bear such financial burden.
The March 20 landmark judgment of the high court had allowed the director general of Namami Gange project, Uttarakhand chief secretary and advocate general the right to represent the Ganga in a view to help in efforts to clean the polluted rivers.
The Namami Gange is the Narendra Modi’s government’s ambitious plan that brings together various efforts for cleaning and conserving the river.
The petition also pointed out that high court erred in not considering that Ganga and Yamuna are inter-state rivers and these rivers flows in other different states.
The state government asked what would be the role of its chief secretary, who has been declared by the high court as loco parentis (local guardian) to the rivers, if there arises any dispute in respect any kind of different illegalities being committed in other states.
“As per the provisions under item no. 56 of the union list of the 7th Schedule (Article 246) of the Constitution, it is the sole constituent right of the Union Government to frame out the rule for efficacious management of all the inter-state rivers,” the petition said.
Terming the verdict as “unsustainable in the law”, the Uttarakhand government contended that the high court went beyond its jurisdiction in passing the verdict, as no pleadings or prayer was made before the court to declare the rivers as living entities.
It argued that the issue before the high court was only with regard to removal of encroachments from the Shakti Canal on the Yamuna in Dehradun district.
“There is no dispute that river Ganga and Yamuna and other tributaries in India are having social impacts, and they support and assist both the life and natural resources and health and well being of the entire community,” the Uttarakhand government petition said adding, “Thus only to protect the faith of the society river Ganga and Yamuna cannot be declared as legal person”.
The Ganga is the holiest Hindu river and also among the dirtiest in the world. The Yamuna is its largest tributary and originates from Yamunotri in Uttarakhand.
The high court order ended the reign of New Zealand’s Whanganui River as the only one in the world to be granted living entity status.