The Uttarakhand High Court on 20 March 2017 accorded the status of "living human entities" to the Ganga and Yamuna, the two most sacred rivers of India.
Exercising extraordinary jurisdiction vested in the court, a division bench of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice Alok Singh of the Nainital High Court said, "Holy Rivers Ganga and Yamuna have been declared to be treated as living human entities."
The court accorded the status of living human entities to these two rivers while hearing a PIL filed by Haridwar resident Mohammad Salim.
Highlights of the ruling of the High Court
• Giving the "legal status" of living humans to the holy rivers, the court ordered to the Director of Namami Gange project to clean and rejuvenate the river.
• The Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand will act as the "legal parents" of the holy rivers.
• The Chief Secretary and Advocate General will work as a human face to protect, conserve and preserve them and their tributaries.
• The two officers will be responsible for upholding the status of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and promote their well-being.
While hearing the plea, the court also cited the example of the river Whanganui of New Zealand. The Whanganui River was given such status in recent past.
About the PIL
Mohammad Salim in his plea raised the matter related to mining and stone crushing along the banks of the Ganga. Hearing the PIL, the court also directed the District Magistrate of Dehradun to remove encroachment from the Shakti canal of the Ganga at Dhakrani within the next 72 hours. In its order, the court said that the DM will be suspended from his office if he fails to comply with the directive.
The petitioner in his plea also contended that there is no effective distribution of properties attached to the tributaries of the rivers between Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the two states that is connected via the holy rivers. On hearing the plea, the court also ordered the authorities to work out the division of various properties between the neighbouring states. The work will be done under Uttar Pradesh Re-Organisation Act, 2000, a matter pending since the inception of Uttarakhand in the year 2000.
Besides all these, the court also directed the government to form a Ganga Management Board. The board should come into existence within the next eight weeks in accordance with its previous order of December 2016.