Samir Mehta vs Union of India MANU/GT/0104/2016

    Facts: Samir Mehta vs Union of India

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    Samir Mehta vs Union of India – M.V. Rak Carrier

    A vessel (M.V. Rak Carrier) carrying more than 60054 metric tons of coal and also containing 290 tons of fuel oil and 50 tons of diesel dropped approximately 20 nautical miles from the South Mumbai coast on 12.08.2011 due to water penetration into ballast tanks due to technical faults. The coal was shipped by Delta Group International to Adani Enterprises Limited. The spill of marine oil over the ocean has caused environmental harm to aquatic organisms, resulting in marine pollution. No steps have been taken by Adani companies to regulate the pollution caused by the spillage.

    Thus, the Indian Coastguard stepped in and took steps to monitor the damage caused and the Indian Government incurred considerable costs as a result. A petition by Samir Mehta, an environmentalist, was submitted before the National Green Tribunal. Samir Mehta challenged the relevance of environmental jurisprudence about the contamination caused by the sinking of ships and oil spills in territorial waters, the contiguous zone, and the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and the effects and liabilities resulting from them. The petition was lodged under sections 14 and 15 of the 2010 Statute of the National Green Tribunal (‘2010 Act’).

    Issues: –

    Samir Mehta vs Union of India - M.V. Rak Carrier
    Samir Mehta vs Union of India – M.V. Rak Carrier
    • As the incident occurred about 20 nautical miles from the coast of Mumbai, which is outside the territorial waters of India and stretches only up to 12 nautical miles, does the NGT Tribunal have jurisdiction to try this case?
    • Whether the Tribunal is allowed by the Government of India (Indian Coast Guard) to award compensation instead of a lawful exercise?
    • As the sender and his subsidiaries intended to play the blame game, the insurer is registered outside India and pleaded insolvency, the reinsurer, also a foreign company, was not a party and the receiver (Adani) claimed no theory of fault; he argues that his products (non-choking coal) did not affect the marine or coastal ecosystem.
    • If the sinking amounted to dumping?

    Judgment: –

    The Tribunal ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the case since, under the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, India’s control over natural resources extends to contiguous zones and exclusive economic zones. Under this Act, the central government has exclusive authority to maintain and protect the marine environment in those zones, and the tribunal has jurisdiction to deal with maritime pollution problems in exclusive economic zones to achieve that objective.

    Furthermore, the Tribunal has held that it has the authority to pay compensation for the costs incurred by the Central Government for the cleaning of wrecks that may pose risks to navigation and the marine environment. Even numerous international treaties have, to that end, provisions. Thus, respondents 5, 7 & 11 (Delta Group International) were held responsible for paying environmental compensation/damages at the rate of Rs. 100 Crores to the Ministry of Shipping, which is a department of the Government of India for causing marine pollution under Sections 15 & 17 read in Sections 14 & 20 of the 2010 Act.

    Concerning the liability of Adani enterprises, the Tribunal held that, under Section 71 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, even though an individual is not a shipowner but is beneficially involved, he is liable to pay pecuniary damages other than by mortgage. Therefore, in the present case, Adani enterprises are liable to pay to the Ministry of Shipping damages of up to 5 crore rupees.

    The respondents have not fulfilled their duty and are, thus, liable under the Precautionary Principle and are also liable to pay the Government of India compensation for the pollution they have caused. The Court thus reaffirmed the ‘Precautionary Principle’ and the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ and also recognized, under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the right to a clean environment as a fundamental right guaranteeing the protection of life and personal liberty.

    The Tribunal considered that the disaster caused by the sinking of the ship caused the marine environment to be contaminated on three counts: (a) the dumping of the cargo on the ship, i.e., the discharge of coal into the sea; (b) the release of the fuel oil stored on board and the resulting oil spill caused by it; and (c) the debris of the ship itself containing the materials. The ship used for transport is unseaworthy in the present case, and the respondents should never have used the ship for transport purposes. In the present case, the sinking of the ship is thus held to be analogous to dumping.

    Thus, the Tribunal eventually awarded Delta Group compensation of 100 crores and Adani Enterprises compensation of 5 crores to be paid to the Ministry of Shipping under the Government of India.

    The sinking of the ship raised relevant questions concerning the contamination caused by the sinking of the ship and the oil spill in India’s Territorial Water, Contiguous Zone, and Exclusive Economic Zone, whether the NGT was qualified to consider the application, and what liability could be resolved.

    Conclusion: –

    This judgment is a seminal one in which the National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks, and other problems. In highlighting the need to protect the environment from destruction, the Tribunal played a constructive role and made the ‘polluter compensate’ for causing environmental harm. It is also possible to conclude that this decision lifted humanity’s expectations of creating a ‘safe world.’

    Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks

    Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks Samir Mehta vs Union of India – National Green Tribunal stressed the need for marine environment safety against harm caused by oil spills, wrecks