Ravindra Gunawardane Kariyawasam v Central Environment Authority

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The petitioner filed a case against the respondents alleging that the thermal power station in Chunakkam has caused the pollution of the groundwater of the area and that the water has become unfit for human consumption. The petitioner has alleged that by failing to enforce the law against the Northern Power Company which operated the thermal power station, the respondents have violated the fundamental right to equal protection before the law under Article 12(1) of the Constitution guaranteed to the petitioner and the residents of the area.

Relevant Laws and Principles[edit]

  • Article 12(1) of the Constitution - Equality before the law and equal protection before the law.
  • National Environment Act - Part IV C
  • Rio Declaration - Principle 10 on public participation in the decision making process.
  • Pollluter Pays Principle
  • Principle of Prevention
  • Doctrine of Public Trust

Outcome of the Case[edit]

The court ruled that the residents of the area are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law under Article 12 of the Constitution. Therefore, these residents were held to have a 'constitutionally guaranteed right to be protected by the provisions of the National Environmental Act to the same extent that residents elsewhere in the country would be protected by the same Act.'

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is required to be conducted for 'prescribed projects' under the National Environmental Act in order to get the approval of the Central Environment Authority (CEA). The court highlighted the importance of the Initial Environmental Examination Report (IEER) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) in light of the Principles of the Rio Declaration. Failure of the Board of Investments and the CEA to act in terms of the provisions of Part IV C National Environmental Act and the Regulations on project approval procedures was held to constitute a violation of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 12(1) of the Constitution.