Tuesday, 24 April 2012

M.C Mehta : The Enviro- Legal Luminary!

If you get some spare time today, try to Google search M.C. Mehta and you will get a  four line wiki profile of the gentleman. Some of you (barring the older generation) may not have even heard of this name. Although we have made the study of the Environment compulsory in our school and college syllabus, surprisingly we do not find this personality in any of the text books.

So, who is M. C. Mehta?

Mahesh Chander Mehta famously known as M.C Mehta is a legal luminary who has spent a lifetime fighting for a noble cause: "Protection of Environment" and pursuing the courts to suitably reward the offenders of the environment. He has earned the respect of the Judiciary and the people because of his persistent efforts towards the Protection of Environment. The role of judiciary has increased in the recent past because of this individual's grit and determination to fight for a cause that is unique in itself.

With  most lawyers dedicating their time fighting civil and criminal cases and many dealing solely with the Corporate sector (also the most well paying sector), this Legal eagle decided that he would dedicate his time efforts and skills in fighting the environmental battle. In fact M. C. Mehta has won several environmental battles against the government. (Perhaps this iniquity disables him from making even a guest appearance in your books.)

Often described as 'One Man- Environmental Brigade,' M. C Mehta has fought tooth and nail against these offenders of Environmental Interests and has won almost 40 Supreme Court Cases and  most of them Single-Handedly".

I have selected three of the most important landmark judgments that changed the role and built the nexus between Judicial Activism and the Environment. He is the first person who advocated that Article 21 must be extended to include the Protection of Environment and the Right to enjoy a clean environment and has succeeded. 

M. C. Mehta v. Union of India (The Shriram Gas leak Case)

This case made it to the Supreme court soon after the Bhopal Gas tragedy. Although the petition was restricted to directing certain parts of the Shriram fertilizers to be shut down, while the petition was still in the court, there was a gas leak at the plant. This later culminated in the establishing of one of the most important principles "The Principle of Absolute Liability"

Taj Trapezium Case

Under a petition filed by M.C Mehta the Court took cognizance of the threat to the deteriorating beauty of Taj Mahal to invoke the Air (Prevention and control of pollution) Act 1981 and Water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974 and Environment Protection Act 1986 for the purpose of relocation of industries to prevent emissions generated by coke or coal consuming industries having a damaging effect on Taj and people living in the TTZ, and further directed them to change over to natural gas as industrial fuel.

The Sivakasi Firecracker Case (Child Labour) : 

M.C Mehta raised the issue of child labour and exploitation of children in Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu) match and fireworks factories. Grossly more than one million children working in these hazardous industries in Tamil Nadu and other States in India were benefited as the Court defined the age of children as 14 years to be eligible for employment and also provided various provisions for the protection of Children. 

India must apreciate  these visionaries and fighters who are silently fighting for the country as a 'WHOLE'. After all the Environment is not the sole property of M. C. Mehta, nor is it a prerogative for him to thrust himself heart, mind and soul for a cause that is largely neglected in our country.

Another important question that I would like to raise before I conclude, "Is it right to blame the public that they do not know the man, or is it high time that we bring to light the works of these leaders from all fields?" As a law student I am often met with an antipathy and a distaste of others towards the Legal profession. Almost all talk of Lawyers as profit making Sharks. Here is someone who has moved beyond the usual realm and worked for a noble cause.

 While the entire country talks of awarding efforts for Sports and Political Greats not to mention even Bollywood stars with the Bharat Ratna, here is a Ratna who is buried under the bushel and no one even applauds the efforts except for the occasional remark that comes from the Honourable Supreme Court.

A salute to all the prolific personas around the country who are contributing to the growth and development of India in toto.

Katherine. Abraham

@katie_abraham on Twitter

The Writer is a Law student and an aspiring U.N. diplomat.


  1. Well done ...
    Salute to all unsung heroes of India..
    Thanks for such an informative Blog..
    All the best

    1. Thank you so much Anand! Glad you liked it!

  2. MC Mehta is an exception and we need more alike. When lawyers are busy making money out of crime and civil cases and in corporates. He deserves salute.

    1. Yes Tarique I agree we need more M.C Mehtas in all branches of the law!

  3. this blog was really informative..got to know good side of law profession and what difference they can make...

    1. Hello! Thank you for your comment! That is exactly the point of the blog. As a law student its always a little upsetting when people 'brand' lawyers as money sharks. Hoping like you many more benefit from this knowledge that not every Lawyer is a liar or a money grabber!

  4. i have met m.c. metha in bangalore many yeas ago . hegave a talk on enviroment which was vey inspirig. ma dedicated soul fighting for natulresources to be protected. a legendry fighter for protectin for enviromet. may his increase.