The court observed that nature has the rights similar to the fundamental, legal and constitutional rights of individuals, and that the governments must protect it.

Madurai Bench of Madras High CourtWikiCommons
news Court Monday, May 02, 2022 - 12:04

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has invoked the "parens patriae jurisdiction" to declare nature as a living being, “having the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person, in order to preserve and conserve them.” The term “Parens Patriae” in Latin means “parent of the nation,” and it refers to the power of the state to intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian or informal caretaker, and to act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection.

Justice S Srimathy made the observation on April 19, while dealing with a petition from a former Tahsildar-level official who sought to quash the disciplinary proceedings against him for allegedly granting patta (land deed) for government land classified as "Forest Poramboke Land" to certain individuals. The petitioner had prayed for quashing of disciplinary proceedings and to direct the respondents to sanction full pension and death-cum-retirement gratuity (DCRG) to him with arrears from the date of retirement with 7.5% interest. The respondents included the Tamil Nadu Principal Revenue Secretary.

In the order, the court observed that nature also has rights similar to an individual’s fundamental, legal and constitutional rights for “survival, safety, sustenance and resurgence.” Further, it added that the state and the Union governments are directed to protect “Mother Nature” and take appropriate steps to protect it in all possible ways. The judge also recalled an earlier judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court where it had invoked "parens patriae jurisdiction" and declared certain glaciers including Gangotri and Yamunotri rivers as legal entities in order to preserve and conserve them.

Observing that indiscriminate destruction or change is leading to several complications in ecosystem and ultimately is endangering the very existence of the animals, flora and fauna, forests, rivers, lakes, water bodies, mountains, glaciers, air and subsequently human life, the court said that the natural environment is encompassed in the right to life.

Regarding the petition, the judge said that since the patta granted in respect of the land in question in Meghamalai was cancelled, and once the necessary entries are made in the village accounts, the punishment “ought to be modified." The court modified the punishment as stoppage of increment for six months without cumulative effect and consequential monetary benefits. He was earlier punished with compulsory retirement.

"This punishment is imposed for the act done against mother nature. The respondents are directed to implement this punishment within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of the order," the judge said.

(With PTI inputs)

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