Case Summary

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1988 SC

This Case Summary is written by Sreeya Chowdary Kesanapalli, a student of Gitam School of Law, Visakhapatnam


The petitioner was a concerned citizen who wanted to preserve the lives of those who used the Ganga’s water, and so his right to file the case could not be questioned. The contamination of the Ganga constituted a public nuisance with a wide-ranging and indiscriminate impact, and it would be unreasonable to expect any one person to take action to halt it apart from the community as a whole.

The petition was therefore entertained as a Public Interest Litigation.


1985, In The Pilgrimage city of Haridwar along the Ganga river matchstick tossed by a smoker resulted in river catching fire for more than 30 hours due to the presence of a toxic layer of chemicals produced by a pharmaceutical firm.

In response to this incident MC Mehta and environmental lawyer and social activist filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India against the 89 respondents wherein respondents (1,7,8,9 were Union of India in 1985. Mehta filed a petition charging that despite the advances created within the code government authorities had not taken effective steps to stop environmental pollution of Ganga river.

Arguments of the petitioner

The petitioner had read that neither of the authorities nor the individuals whose lives were connected with the stream of the Ganga river and directed laid low with it, perceived to concerning with the levels of pollution of Ganga and necessary steps needed to stop and equivalent.

Arguments of the respondents

 None of the tanneries controversial the very fact that effluent discharge from the tanneries grossly pollutes Ganga. It was expected that the discharge the trade effluents into the Sewerage that ends up in Municipal sewerage plants before discharge into the stream.

Questions Of Law

  1. Whether the authorities had paid attention to the worsening condition of the the sacred water course and had initiated probation into the matter?
  2. Whether any steps have been taken by the state?


The entire case was based on the discharge of ‘trade effluents’ into the Ganga River. Trade effluents includes any liquid, volatized or solid substance that is discharged from any premises used for carrying on any trade or business, apart from domestic waste material. The State Board is additionally entrusted with the work of birth down standards of treatment of waste material and trade effluents to be discharged into any specific stream taking under consideration the minimum fair-weather dilution obtainable therein stream and also the tolerance limits of pollution permissible within the water of the stream , once the discharge of such effluents.


Certainly, the petitioner before the Court was not a riparian owner. He was an individual who cared about the lives of those who used the Ganga’s water, and his right to file the petition could not be contested.

The nuisance caused by the pollution was a public nuisance, wide-spread in range and indiscriminate in its effect, and it  would not be reasonable to expect any particular person to take proceedings to stop it as distinct from the community at large. The petition was entertained as a Public Interest Litigation.

The court declared the importance of Water( prevention and management of pollution) Act,1974(the Water Act).This act was passed to forestall and management pollution and maintaining water quality. This Act established central and declared boards and bestowed them with power and functions about the management and interference of pollution.

Section 24 of the act prohibits the employment of the employment of any ‘stream’ for disposal of polluting matter. A ‘stream’ under section 2(j) of the act includes watercourse.

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