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To protect the Ganga and Yamuna rivers from pollution, the Uttarakhand High Court had, three months back, declared that the rivers were living entities, with the same legal rights as a person. The Uttarakhand government has challenged this judgement in the Supreme Court, saying this was untenable in law.

The state government has said that it wants to be relieved as the legal guardian of the rivers, asking that what if there were human casualties in a flood? Would the public have the right to sue the chief secretary? Will the state government then have to bear the financial burden? The government has pointed out such legal complications that may arise.

The Namami Gange project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received a boost from the judgment, and strict penalties had been suggested for polluting and other “crimes”. The idea received kudos, but opened doors to litigation.

The petition said that the rivers were inter-state rivers and this could also be taken into consideration.

The government asked how would the rivers’ local guardian, the chief secretary, be liable for any dispute or illegalities in other states.

India Legal Bureau

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