Ganga and Yamuna are legal persons

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Case:

Sandeep Singh Bais v. State of MP (Decided on 9.3.2017)

FACTS

On December 5, the court had directed the Centre to constitute the board “and make it functional” within “three months”.The States of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have not cooperated with the Central Government to constitute a Ganga Management Board, the Court, in exercise of its parens patriae jurisdiction, in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna,

HELD

The Court referred to Ganga River as “Ganga Maa” and deliberated on the nature of God, the Uttarakhand High Court has declared Ganga and Yamuna and their tributaries “juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person”. Noting that “there is utmost expediency to give legal status to a living person/legal entity to Rivers Ganga and Yamuna r/w Articles 48-A and 51A(g) of the Constitution of India, “The judgment, which was delivered Monday by the division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh, came during the hearing of a PIL related to division of properties between Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Court made it clear that “Rivers Ganga and Yamuna are breathing, living and sustaining the communities from mountains to sea”.

Previously, the high court based its argument on the religious value of the rivers and cited several Supreme Court decisions that stated that “a Hindu idol is a juristic entity capable of holding property and of being taxed” through those “who are entrusted with the possession and management of its property”.

Pointing out that deterioration of Ganga and Yamuna is a classic case of ‘desperate times, desperate measures’, the Court observed that the Rivers have a profound significance in the lives of devout Hindus, whence they are worshiped and revered as Mother; the one who purifies people of their sins. Backing its decision to grant legal personality to Ganga and Yamuna. Rivers Ganges and Yamuna are worshiped by Hindus,” the court said, underlining that “according to Hindu beliefs, a dip in River Ganga can wash away all the sins”. “The Ganga is also called ‘Ganga Maa’,” it added.

Deliberating on the nature of God, it observed: “God is omnipotent and omniscient and its presence is felt not by reason of a particular form or image but by reason of the presence of the omnipotent.” The court also rapped UP and Uttarakhand for their failure to constitute the Ganga Management Board and asked the Chief Secretaries of both states to cooperate with the Centre. It noted that Virendra Sharma, Senior Joint Commissioner, Ministry of Water Resource & Ganga Rejuvenation, had revealed that despite neither long correspondence, neither UP nor Uttarakhand were cooperating with the Central Government.

Examining that how Hindus have deep faith in the Rivers and how the Rivers are very central to the material and spiritual existence of half of Indian population and their health and well-being, the Court noted that the constitution of Ganga Management Board has become all the more necessary for the purpose of irrigation, rural and urban water supply, hydro power generation, navigation, industries.

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