M.C. Mehta’s public interest environmental litigation cases have formed the foundation for the development of environmental jurisprudence in India, and indeed, South Asia today.
M.C. Mehta’s cases have established the following seminal principles in Indian environmental jurisprudence:
- The constitutional right to life extends to the right to a clean and healthy environment.
- Courts are empowered to grant financial compensation as a remedy for the infringement of the right to life.
- Polluters should be held absolutely liable to compensate for harm caused by their hazardous activities.
- Public resources that are sensitive, fragile or of high ecological value should be maintained and preserved for the public.
- Similarly, the government has a responsibility to prevent environmental degradation. Even if scientific uncertainty exists, the implementation of preventative measures should not be delayed wherever there is the possibility of serious or irreversible damage.
- Green benches should be established in Indian High Courts dealing specifically with environmental cases.