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Tort and Criminal Liability

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India AIR 1987 SC 1086


M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 1086


  • Whether these harmful industries should be permitted to operate in these areas?
    Whether a regulatory mechanism should be established if they are permitted to function in such areas?
  • Whether the rule of Absolute Liability is to be followed?


  • Any industry involved in hazardous or dangerous activities that causes harm to the environment or the people through any accident would be held absolutely liable.


  • Shriram Food and Fertilisers Ltd., a Delhi-based privately owned fertilizer plant, was located in the densely populated area of Kirti Nagar with a population of 200,000 people. Due to the factory’s chemical processes, it emitted hazardous substances that caused a public nuisance.
  • A public interest attorney, MC Mehta, filed a writ petition under Articles 21 and 32 to the Supreme Court seeking closure and relocation of the factory’s Shriram Caustic Chlorine and Sulphuric Acid Plant.
  • During the pending lawsuit, the Oleum Gas Leak incident occurred at one of the factory’s plants that caused severe harm to people who inhaled the gas. The leakage incident caused the factory to collapse, two days after which another minor incident of oleum gas leakage occurred at the site. after which the claims for compensation were filed, for the people who had suffered damage as a result of Oleum Gas escape, by the Delhi Legal Aid & Advice Board and the Delhi Bar Association.
  • The Delhi Magistrate immediately acted in accordance with Section 133 sub-section (1). Shriram Food and Fertiliser was given a 7-day deadline to stop producing dangerous substances such Super Chlorine, Oleum, Phosphate, and Chlorine and to promise never to store them there again. Otherwise, they had to appear in court.
  • Because this was an important legal matter pertaining to the interpretation of Articles
    21 and 32 of the Constitution, the case was referred to the Supreme Court.


  • The Hon’ble Apex Court held with the advancement of technology and industrialization, hazardous substances and gases have increased manifold, posing a greater threat to the environment, the rule of strict liability was 100 years old and was not enough to decide such cases, hence, the Hon’ble Supreme Court went further and implemented the absolute liability rule.
  • The court additionally ordered the industries to create and expand a green belt surrounding such sectors that is 1 to 5 kilometres wide
  • The court ordered the Central Government to establish an Environmental Court with a judge and two members who are experts in ecological sciences research to assist the judge.