The Supreme Court on Friday (July 7) set aside the Uttarakhand High Court judgment of March which termed the rivers Ganga and Yamuna as “living entities”, attributing them with several legal rights. It was an effort by the high court to prevent the rivers from being polluted and misused.
The high court had said that the rivers cannot be harmed and should be parties to disputes over them. Several litigious conditions arose from this judgment and the state’s BJP government appealed to the apex court against the verdict. The government’s contention was that it was “unsustainable in law”.
The government’s petition in court was: “There is no dispute that river Ganga and Yamuna and other tributaries in India… support and assist both life and natural resources and the health and well-being of the entire community. (But) only to protect the faith of society, the rivers cannot be declared as legal persons.”
New Zealand had, earlier this year, declared its Whanganui river a living entity and had appointed two guardians to protect its interests. That was the first such instance in the world.
—India Legal Bureau