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M.C.MEHTA V. UNION OF INDIA,
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  M.C.MEHTA V. UNION OF INDIA, DECIDED ON 20 TH  DECEMBER 1986. EQUIVALENT CITATION:   1987 AIR 1086, 1987 SCR (1) 819. INTRODUCTION: The Shriram Gas leak case was a very significant case in the field of environmental activism, as it pitted the Supreme Court, the representative of the people, against one of the biggest and most wealthy industrial establishments of India, Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers. The Shriram gas leak case was also unique of its kind as it was the first time when an industry was solely held responsible for an accident and forced to pay compensation regardless of what arguments it made in its defense. The important aspect is that case lays down the principle of absolute liability and the concept of deep pockets. It is also worth citing that the findings for the verdict were made not only on a legal basis but also on a scientific one and doing so the Supreme Court preformed an extra judiciary role. The verdict was also decided, taking into account the need for industrialization and the fact that accidents are an unavoidable consequence of it. Overall it established the Supreme Court as the protector of the environment and the rights of the public.    IN THE HON’BLE SUPREME  COURT OF INDIA (UNDER CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 1949) WR.P.No: 1987 SCR (1) 819 of 1985 M.C.MEHTA……………………………………………… Petitioner  v. UNION OF INDIA.................................. .……………….. Respondent   ………………………………………………………………………....   ………………………………………………………………………....   On submission to the Supreme Court of India Memorial on behalf of the Petitioner/ Defendant COUNSEL FOR THE PETITIONER/ DEFENDENT   FACTS OF THE CASE: Shriram Food and Fertilizers Industry a subsidiary of Delhi Cloth Mills Limited was producing caustic and chlorine. Shriram Foods and Fertilizer Industries had several units engaged in the manufacture of caustic soda, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, stable bleaching powder, super  phosphate, vanaspati, soap, sulphuric acid, alum anhydrous sodium sulphate, high test hypochlorite and active earth. All units were set up in a single complex situated in approximately 76 acres and they are surrounded by thickly populated colonies such as Punjabi Bagh, West Patel  Nagar, Karampura, Ashok Vihar, Tri Nagar and Shastri Nagar and within a radius of 3 kilometres from this complex there is population of approximately 2, 00,000. To address this issue public interest litigation (No. 12,739, 1985) was filed by environmentalist and lawyer, M.C. Mehta, requesting the Supreme Court for the immediate closure and relocation of the industrial complex. On December 4th and 6th 1985, a major leakage of oleum gas took place from one of the units of Shriram Food and Fertilizers Limited in the heart of the capital city of Delhi which resulted in the death of several persons that one advocate practicing in the Tis Hazari Courts died. The leakage was caused by a series of mechanical and human errors. This leakage resulted from the bursting of the tank containing oleum gas as a result of the collapse of the structure on which it was mounted and it created a scare amongst the people residing in that area. Hardly had the  people got out of the shock of this disaster when, within two days, another leakage, though this time a minor one took place as a result of escape of oleum gas from the joints of a pipe. On 6th December, 1985 by the District Magistrate, Delhi under Section 133(1) of Cr.P.C, directed Shriram that within two days Shriram should cease carrying on the occupation of manufacturing and processing hazardous and lethal chemicals and gases including chlorine, oleum, super-chlorine, phosphate, etc at their establishment in Delhi and within 7 days to remove such chemicals and gases from Delhi. At this juncture M.C.Mehta moved to the Supreme Court to claim compensation by filing a PIL for the losses caused and pleaded that the closed establishment should not be allowed to restart. On behalf of the gas leak victims the Delhi Legal  aid and Advice Board and the Delhi Bar Association filed for compensation along with the srcinal petition of M.C. Mehta. The Inspector of Factories and the Assistant Commissioner of Factories issued orders to shut down the plant on the 7th and 24th of December respectively under the Factories Act (1948). Shriram responded by filing writ petitions of itself (No. 26 of 1986) to nullify the two orders and interim opening of its caustic chlorine plant manufacturing; glycerin, soap, hard oil, etc. This writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution had come before the court on a reference made by a Bench of three Judges. The reference was made because certain questions of seminal importance and high constitutional significance were raised in the course of arguments when the writ petition was srcinally heard. The facts giving rise to the writ petition and the subsequent events have been set out in some detail in the Judgment given by the Bench of three Judges P. N. BHAGWATI, C.J.I., D. P. MADON AND G. L. OZA, JJ. on 17th February 1986 (reported in AIR 1987 SC 965). The Bench of three Judges permitted Shriram Foods and Fertilizer Industries to restart its power plant as also plants for manufacture of caustic soda and chlorine including its  by-products and recovery plants like soap, glycerin and technical hard oil, subject to the conditions set out in the Judgment. While the writ petition was pending another applications were filed by the Delhi Legal Aid and Advice Board and the Delhi Bar Association for award of compensation to the persons who had suffered harm on account of escape of oleum gas. These applications for compensation raised a number of issues of great constitutional importance and the Bench of three Judges therefore formulated these issues and asked the petitioner and those supporting him as also Shriram to file their respective written submissions so that the Court could take up the hearing of these applications for compensation. When these applications for compensation came up for hearing it was felt that since the issues raised involved substantial questions of law relating to the interpretation of Arts. 21 and 32 of the Constitution, the case should be referred to a larger Bench of five Judges and thus the case stood in the Coram of the Hon‟ble bench consisting of P. N. BHAGWATI, C.J.I., RANGANATH MISRA, G. L. OZA, M. M. DUTT AND K. N. SINGH, JJ.
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