In a first in the country, the Uttarakhand High Court, on Monday, declared that the rivers Ganga and Yamuna were “living persons.”
On March 15, New Zealand river Whanganui became the first in the world to be granted a legal human status.
Order on PIL plea
Five days later, the Division Bench comprising Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by one Mohammad Salim in 2014, gave a landmark judgment stating that the Ganga and the Yamuna must be treated as living entities.
“…to protect the recognition and the faith of society, rivers Ganga and Yamuna are required to be declared as legal persons [or] living persons,” stated the court order.
“The Ganga and [the] Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams… are declared as juristic [or] legal persons [or] living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna,” it added. The two rivers, which are sacred for the Hindus, sustain millions of people in the country.
In a state of neglect
However, they have been in a state of neglect and even though several government initiatives, including the Centre’s Namami Gange programme, are aimed at restoring their health, not much has been achieved yet.
The court ordered that the Director of the Namami Gange programme, the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, and the Advocate-General of Uttarakhand would serve as “parents” for the rivers and would be the human faces to “protect, conserve and preserve” the rivers and their tributaries.