Uttarakhand HC Issues Notice to ‘Living Entity’ Ganga

The performance audit by the apex auditor has revealed “underutilisation” of funds and “delays” in project approvals

More than a month after the Uttarakhand High Court granted legal status to Ganga, the court issued a notice to the river on 28 April, Hindustan Times reported.

The notice was in response to a petition filed by Swarup Singh Pundir, who is also the Khadak Maf village head. Pundir challenged the Uttarakhand government’s proposal to create a garbage dump in Rishikesh as the Ganga flows on both sides of the embarked land. Pundir claimed that this would lead to increased pollution levels in the river, especially when water overflows during rainy season.

The two-judge bench, led by VK Bisht and Alok Singh, reportedly sent notices to all respondents in the case including river Ganga. Ganga was assigned the designation of a living entity on 20 March 2017.

What Does it Mean?

The High Court has passed numerous orders relating to the cleaning up of the Ganga, so it is safe to assume that the preservation of the river is the objective behind this ruling, Vakasha Sachdev, a lawyer told The Quint.

Vakasha Sachdev, lawyerIt is also likely that this step has been taken so that cases can be brought before the courts directly on behalf of the Ganga river. This could be an extremely useful tool in fighting actions like the dumping of waste in the river, instead of having to show that a given person is harmed because of the consequences of dumping waste in the water. The dumping of waste will now directly constitute harm.

Not the First Instance of A River Getting A ‘Legal Identity’

While the idea of a river being recognised as a ‘living entity’ might be new to India, nature having legal rights is a concept already codified in countries like Ecuador and New Zealand.

It was only a few days ago that New Zealand’s Whanganui River won personhood rights. It should be added, however, that the situations in Ecuador and New Zealand are also slightly different than is the case here. In Ecuador, the issue is related to the rights of nature while in New Zealand, the local Maori culture and its beliefs about the river were key in the decision of their parliament to grant it rights.