The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Uttarakhand High Court order according the status of “living human entity” to Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
The order came from a bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud on a plea by the Uttarakhand government against the March 20 ruling of the high court. The petition said the high court verdict raised several legal questions and administrative issues.
The high court’s order had come on a PIL by Hardwar-resident Mohammed Salim regarding illegal sandmining and stone crushing along the banks of the Ganga.
The order issued in exercise of parens patrie (authority regarded as legal protector of citizens who are unable to protect themselves) jurisdiction said “the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with flow continuously or intermittently of these rivers, are declared as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna”.
It also declared the Director of the Namami Gange project, the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand and the Advocate General of the state “loco parents” — the human faces to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers and their tributaries. “These officers are bound to uphold the status of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna and also to promote the health and well-being of these rivers,” it said.
The order had put the state government in a quandary. Since the rivers flow through several states, only the Centre could frame rules for their management. The ruling also raised questions like whether the victim of a flood in the rivers can sue the state for damages and also about whether the state and its officers will be liable in case of pollution in the rivers in another state through which it flows.