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the cost of pollution abatement.

In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India, Resultantly, the Supreme Court recognized Sustainable Development, the Precautionary Principle and the Polluter Pays principle as a part of our environmental jurisprudence.

In S. Jagannath v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that sea beaches and sea coasts are gifts of nature and any activity polluting the same cannot be permitted. The intensified shrimp (prawn) farming culture industry by modern method in coastal areas was causing degradation of mangrove ecosystem, depletion of plantation discharge of highly polluting effluents and pollution of potable as well as ground water.

We have no hesitation in holding that the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle are part of the environmental law of the country.

Even otherwise once these principles are accepted as part of the Customary International Law there would be no difficulty in accepting them as part of the domestic law. It is almost accepted proposition of law that the rule of Customary International Law which is not contrary to the municipal law shall be deemed to have been incorporated in the domestic law and shall be followed by the Courts of Law.

Public Trust Doctrine

Another major principle accepted by the Supreme Court is the public trust doctrine for the protection of natural resource. This doctrine came up for consideration in the M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath.

A rather unusual situation had arisen in this case. The flow of the river Beas was deliberately diverted because it used to flood Span Motels in the Kulu Manali valley in which a prominent politician’s family had a direct interest. The motel was also allotted protected forestland by the State Government and had also encroached on protected forestland, which encroachment was subsequently regularized.

The Supreme Court used the public trust doctrine in this case to restore the environment to its original condition. Briefly, this doctrine postulates that the public has a right to expect that certain lands and natural areas will retain their natural characteristics.

Applying the public trust doctrine, the Supreme Court cancelled the lease of forestland granted in favour of Span Motels and the State Government was directed to take over the area and restore it to its original condition. The motel was directed to pay compensation (damages for restitution of the environment and ecology of the area). It was also asked to show cause why a pollution fine be not imposed.

While deciding the show cause notice regarding imposition of a pollution fine, the Supreme Court held that in law the fine could not be imposed without a trial and a finding that the motel is guilty of an offence under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Accordingly, no pollution fine was imposed on Span Motels but it was asked to show cause why it should not pay exemplary damages. After considering the reply of Span Motels, exemplary damages of Rs.10 lakhs were imposed.