Madras HC: underlines the rights of Nature under parens Patrie
The Madras high court has invoked the ‘Parens Patrie jurisdiction’ to annunciate Mother nature as a living being having a legal entity/juristic person/judicial person/ moral person/legal person/artificial person with all corresponding rights, liberties and duties of a living person, to sustain and protect them. The Madurai bench of the high court comprising Justice S. Srimathy observed that- Nature shall have fundamental, legal, and constitutional rights for its safety, survival, subsistence and resurgence to maintain its status and also to upgrade its health and wellbeing. The bench also directed the central and state government to take suitable measures to safeguard the mother earth in all feasible ways. This observation was made by the bench in the petition which was filled by the former taluk tahsildar seeking to quash the order of the government inflicting compulsory retirement and a penalty of 1/3rd pension and other retirement benefits for colluding with other officers and granting patta to the private individuals in forest lands.
The summarized fact of the petition (A.periyakaruppan vs. The principal secretary to government and another) are as follows- For the past 35 years, the petitioner had been serving in the revenue department as a Distillery officer in the cadre of deputy collector in the Rajashree sugars and chemicals private limited, Varadaraj Nagar, Periyakulam Taluk, Theni District. Citing the pendency of the disciplinary proceedings against him, he was not allowed to get retired after attaining the age of superannuation and was placed under suspension. The government punished him on 06.04.2009, by imposing compulsory retirement but further via go dated 17.08.2012, the government instructed that he shall be eligible for only 2/3rd of the pension and DCRG. The 1/3rd of the retirement gratuity and eligible pension were reduced as a penalty. It was propounded by the petitioner that the punishment was imposed on him for carrying out the orders of the Assistant settlement officer, Madurai dated 24.07.1996 which was directing him to grant patta to an extent of 2873.03 hectares in plot no.36, Part of Megamalai village under section 11A of the Tamil Nadu Estates (Abolition and conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948. The petitioner contended that “though such severe punishment is inflicted on him, the director of survey and settlement, Chennai, the head of the department treated the land as Ryoti along with the assistant settlement officer, Madurai has been also left secured and Scot-free.
As per the order of the settlement officer and the directions of the district collector, Madurai, the Patta granted was cancelled and all the required and necessary entries were made and filled in the village accounts. Accordingly, there was no pecuniary loss incurred. Therefore, the petitioner submitted that the punishment imposed on him was harsh and pleaded before the court for quashing of the same”. The respondent on the other hand contends that the petitioner being a custodian of government lands, should not have acted to execute the orders of the Assistant settlement officer as it is contrary to the law and should not have allotted government lands to private individuals. They further propounded that other officer who was involved in granting Patta also faced similar disciplinary proceedings, but some of the proceedings were quashed and some were upheld by the high court.
Since in each case there is some sort of difference, the petitioner could not claim to treat Par with them. The court contemplated that- since the land in question was classified as Forest land compulsory intervention was required, therefore, entries were modified, the pattas were cancelled and the punishment of the Co-delinquent was also quashed. Hereupon, the court without cumulative effect modified the order of the compulsory retirement as a stoppage of increment for six months. Justice S Srimathy referred to an earlier judgement of the Uttarakhand high court, where it had invoked parens patriae jurisdiction (parent of the nation), and declared the glaciers including Gangotri and Yamunotri rivers as legal entities to preserve and protect them. She propounded that the past generations have entrusted mother earth in its Pristine glory and we are morally bounded to hand over the same to the upcoming generation.
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