In India, the year 1972 is of significance in the field of environmental management. The National Committee of Environment and Planning and Co-ordination was established and number of measures were undertaken to implement the recommendations already made and to be made thereafter. However, in 1976 the National Commission on Agricultural. However, in 1976 the National Commission of Agricultural realized the improper implementation of the National Forest Policy, 1952 and suggested certain recommendations as the following:
(1) There should be provision for prior approval of the Central before taking action for dereservation or diversion of forest lands to non forest use.
(2) There is need to encourage the large scale industrial plantation to faster growth of forest industries.
To achieve-this object the Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted which deals with the four categories of forest, namely —
(1) Chapter — II deals with reserved forests
(2) Chapter — III deals with village forests
(3) Chapter — IV deals with protected forests
(4) Chapter — V deals with non-government foresg
Chapters II, III and IV deal forests which are Governments property. Although chapter — V deals with the forests which are not governments
property. It is to be noted that even the enactment of Indian Forest Act, 1972 failed to achieve the object intended. Therefore, the Forest Ordinance, 1980 was promulgated by President of India, later on the
Ordinance was followed by the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 with the Objects and Reasons as follows :
“Deforestation causes ecological imbalances and lead to environmental
deterioration. Deforestation has been taking place on large scale in the country and it has caused widespread concern.”
The ordinance also made provision for an Advisory Committee to render advice to the Central Government in matters of such approval. According to Section 2, of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, which provides that:
Not withstanding any things contained in any other law for the time being inforce in a State, no State Government or other authority shall make, except with the prior approval of the Central Government, any order directing—
(i) That any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
(ii) That any reserved forest (within the meaning of the expression reserved forest, in any law for the time being in force in that State) or any portion thereof shall cease to be reserved.
Explanation — For the purpose of this Section “non forest purpose” means breaking up or cleaning of any forest land or portion thereof for any purpose other than reafforestation.” In this way, now the State Government cannot exercise its power vested under Section 27 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law having a similar provision except with prior approval of the Central Government.
In 1980, the Apex Court dealt with this provision in Ambica Quarry Works Vs. State of Gujarat) Air 1987 SC 1973), popularly known as “Removal of mining lease case” the Court said.
“This rule dealt with a situation prior to the coming into operation of the Indian Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The Act makes recognition of the awareness that deforestation and ecological imbalances as a result of deforestation have become social menaces and further deforestation and ecological imbalances should be prevented. That was the primary purpose writ large in the Act of 1980. Therefore, the concept that power coupled with the duty enjoined upon the respondents to renew the lease stands eroded by the mandate of the legislation as manifest in 1980 Act in the facts and circumstances of these cases. The primary duty was to the community and that duty took precedence. In our opinion, in these cases, the obligation to the society must predominate over legislation to individuals.”
Further, the Court observed “In the instant appeals the situation is entirely different. The appellants are asking for a renewal of the quarry leases. It will led to further deforestation or at least it will not help reclaiming back the areas where deforestation have taken place. In that view of the matter in the facts and circumstance of the case, in our opinion, the ration of the said decision (AIR 1987 SC 1973 at p. 14986) cannot be made applicable to support the appellants’ demands, in these cases because the facts are entirely different here. The primary purpose of the Act which must subserve the interpretation in order to implement the Act is to prevent further deforestation. The Central Government has not granted approval.”
It is to be noted that Indian Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 applies to renewals as well as and even if there was a provision for renewal in the lease agreement on exercise of lessee’s option, the requirement of 1980 Act had to be satisfied before such renewal could be granted.
In M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India (AIR 1987 SC 1086) the Apex Court has held that the principles laid down in Rylands Vs. Fletcher (1968 (19) LT 220) would not be applicable in the Indian context, we have the frame our own rule because Ryland’s case rule was evolved in the context of a totally different kind of economy. We cannot allow our judicial thinking to be constructed by reference to the law as it. prevails in England or for the matters of that in any other foreign country. We no longer need the witness of a foreign legal order. We are certainly to receive light to build up our own jurisprudence and we cannot contemn an argument merely because the new law does not recognize the rule of strict and absolute liability in cases of hazardous or dangerous liability or the rule as laid down in Rylands Vs. Fletcher as is developed in England recognizes certain limitations and responsibilities. We in Indian cannot hold our hands back and I venture to evolve a new principle of liability which English courts have not done. We have to develop our own law and if we find that it is necessary to a new principle of liability to deal with an unusual situation which has arisen and which is likely to arise in future on account of hazard dangerous industries which are concomitant to an industrial economy. There is no reason why we should hesitate to evolve such principal of liability merely because it has not been done so in England.
Any enterprise which poses threat to the health and safety of the persons working in the factory and residing in the surrounding areas, covers an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that no harm results to any one on account of hazardous of inherently dangerous nature, of the activity which it has undertaken. The enterprises must be held to be under an obligation to provide that the hazardous or inherently dangerous activity in which it is engaged must be conducted with the highest standards, of safety and if any harm result on an account of such activity, the enterprise must be absolutely liable to compensate for such a harm and should be no answer to the enterprise to say that it has taken all reasonable care and that the harm occurred without any negligence on its part.