Dehradun: The Uttarakhand government has moved the Supreme Court challenging an Uttarakhand High Court order granting rivers Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries the status of living human entities.
Seeking a stay on the March 20 order of the high court through a Special Leave Petition filed recently, the state government has urged the apex court to consider "substantial questions of law" arising from the verdict.
Challenging the three-month-old verdict which bestows on these rivers, their tributaries and water bodies fed by them the same legal rights as enjoyed by a person and declares the state chief secretary as their local guardian (loco parentis) the state government contends that the order was legally untenable.
The petition questions whether in case of human casualties in a flood, the affected people can file suit for damages against the chief secretary of the state and whether state government would be liable to bear such financial burden.
Confirming that an SLP in this regard had been filed in the apex court, Uttarakhands Advocate General S N Babulkar said some questions need to be addressed regarding the order such as what would be the role of the chief secretary, who has been declared by the high court as local guardian to the rivers, if there arises a dispute regarding illegalities being committed in other states through which the rivers flow. The petition contends that the order was passed by the high court in spite of the fact that these rivers and their tributaries pass through different states through the jurisdiction of different governments.
The petition also questions whether the high court had not exceeded its writ jurisdiction in passing the order as granting the status of living entities to the rivers was neither pleaded nor prayed in the writ petition.
It argued that the issue before the high court was only with regard to removal of encroachments from the Shakti Canal on the Yamuna in Dehradun district.
Citing the provisions under item no. 56 of the union list of the 7th Schedule (Article 246) of the Constitution, the petition also says it is the sole constituent right of the Union Government to frame out rules for efficacious management of all the inter-state rivers and hence whether or not it will be within the powers of the state of Uttarakhand to declare the river Ganga and Yamuna as legal persons or living entities.
The petition urges the apex court to grant special leave to appeal against the order of the High Court order dated March 20 besides seeking a stay on it.
In a landmark judgement on March 20, the high court had accorded the status of living human entities to the Ganga and Yamuna, two of Indias most ancient rivers and their tributaries. PTI