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River Ganga Now a Living Entity, HC Gives it Fundamental Rights

In a landmark ruling by the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital, River Ganges and River Yamuna has been accorded the status of India’s first living entity and shall have all the fundamental rights available to a person under the Indian Constitution.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:March 20, 2017, 8:29 PM IST
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River Ganga Now a Living Entity, HC Gives it Fundamental Rights
A naga sadhu prays as he bathes in the waters of the Ganga river. (Photo: Getty Images)

New Delhi: In a landmark ruling by the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital, River Ganga and River Yamuna have been accorded the status of India’s first living entity and shall have all the fundamental rights available to a person under the Indian Constitution.

Uttarakhand HC has also ruled that the Centre should form a Ganga Administration Board for cleaning and better maintenance of the most sacred river of the country.

Advocate Lalit Miglani of Uttarakhand HC told News18 that the present matter dealt with the issue of Khannan (Stone crushing) by the boundaries of River Ganga.

“The matter was with regard to how industries are using material from River Ganga’s boundary and involving in activities of stone crushing. This is weakening the boundaries of the River Ganga and is therefore making it dangerous for nearby settlements as the chances of floods are only increasing by such activities,” said Miglani.

Last Friday, Uttarakhand HC slammed the Union government as well as the state government for having misplaced priorities like locating the missing River Saraswati but doing “nothing concrete” in cleaning River Ganga.

The matter has been decided by the division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh. The same bench had expressed serious concern last week as to why the Supreme Court directives issued in December, 2016, were not adhered to.

While hearing a PIL by Advocate Lalit Miglani last December, the court had taken serious note of irregularities in the use of funds allocated to clean the river and had ordered a special audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of expenses related to various schemes to clean Ganga. The HC had also ordered the CAG report to be submitted to the President of India within six months.

But River Ganga is not the only one which has been accorded such a status. A similar ruling was also passed in New Zealand when their parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as ‘legal person’.

The river became the first in the world to be legally recognized as a living entity and was granted the same rights as a human being.

Ecuador was also the first country to recognize Rights of Nature in its Constitution. Ecuador redrafted its Constitution in 2007-2008 and it was ratified by referendum by the people of Ecuador in September 2008. The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter: Rights for Nature.

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