M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Ors 1999 [1999(4) SCALE 196]


The petitioner filed a public interest litigation in the year 1984 alleging that the foundries, chemical/hazardous industries and the refinery at Mathura are the major sources of damage to the Taj, priceless national monument of India. The Sulphur Dioxide emitted by Mathura refinery and industries when combined with oxygen – with the aid of moisture in the atmosphere forms Sulphuric Acid called Acid rain which has a corroding effect on the gleaning white marble.

It was also stated in the petition that industrial/refinery emission brick kilns, vehicular traffic and generator-sets are primarily responsible for polluting the ambient air around Taj Trapezium. The court in their order after 13 years in 1997 held that the emissions generated by coke/coal consuming industries are air pollutant and damage effect on Taj. So the relocation of the industries in the Taj Trapezium is to resorted to only if the natural gas which has been brought at the doorstep of as a substitute for coke/coal. As the Gas Authority of India has already invited the industry to apply for natural gas connection, the industries which are not in a position to obtain gas connections for any reason shall stop functioning with the aid of coke and coal in this area and may relocate them by approaching corporation/government for alternative plots. The court also made several directions in this regard for the protection of the Taj area.

Pursuant to this order the Gas Authority of India Limited filed an application before the Supreme Court to extend the schedule for supply of gas to industries in Zone I of Agra city in such a manner that in respect of cupola – based industries supply of gas by GAIL coincides with the readiness of the consumer industries to draw Gas and to direct non – cupola based industries in Zone I to draw gas latest by September 1999. The application also prayed for a direction to the Secretary PWD Government of U.P. and Secretory/Director General Government of India, Ministry of Surface Transport to grant the permission for underpinning the gas pipeline to the Tumunal Road Bridge within four weeks so that GAIL may be able to the schedule for supply of Gas to Zone II and Zone II laid by the 30th May 98 order of the Supreme Court.

As there were 168 industries operating in this area and out of which 115 entered into agreement with GAIL for supply of natural gas the court observed that there is no justification for the other 53 industries to function in this area. It was placed before the court record that the rest are waiting for the technology to be developed by the National Metallurgical Laboratory. The court in their earlier order on May 12th 1999 had issued notice to 79 industries in Zone I requiring them to show cause why they were not availing the facility to be supplied by GAIL so the main question before the court was whether 79 coke/coal industries which are continuously using coke/coal to be allowed to pollute the air in and around Taj Trapezium. The court keeping in mind the NEERI and or Varadarajan report and affidavit filed by the industries directed 53 iron boundaries to be closed forthwith unless they have shifted. The court could not also find any reason for the non-cupola industries for not accepting the natural gas from GAIL and ordered for the closure of the same.