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Natural environment is a part of right to life: Madras HC: A. Periyakaruppan v. The principal secretary to government and another

Gautam Badlani ,
  04 May 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Madras High Court 
Brief :
In this landmark judgment, the Court, while invoking parens patriae jurisdiction, declared "Mother Nature" to be a living being having the status of legal entity and conferred with corresponding rights, liabilities and duties
Citation :
W.P (MD) No. 18636 of 2013
  • Date of judgement: 19th April, 2022
  • Court: Madras High Court 
  • Citation: W.P (MD) No. 18636 of 2013
  • Bench: Hon’ble Justice S. Srimathy


  • Complainant – A. PERIYAKARUPPAN


The instant writ petition was filed before the Madras High Court to direct the respondents to pay the full pension to the petitioner within a stipulated period of time.


  • The petitioner had served in the revenue department for more than 3 decades and had attained superannuation on 28.02.2006.
  • However, on account of the disciplinary proceedings pending against him, he was not permitted to retire and was placed on suspension.
  • Upon the conclusion of the proceedings, 1/3rd of the pension and retirement gratuity were reduced as penalty.
  • The petitioner appeal against this order before the Madras High Court through a writ petition.


  • The petitioner contended that he had been punished for carrying out the orders of the Assistant Settlement Officer who is a quasi judicial authority.
  • The petitioner pleaded that he had been published while neither the Assistant Settlement Officer nor the Director of Survey and Settlement who treated, as Ryoti, the land in question, had been punished. 
  • The petitioner submitted that he was being punished merely for following the orders of a superior officer.
  • Furthermore, the penalty imposed on the petitioner was extremely harsh as no monetary loss had resulted from the petitioner's actions.


  • The respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the petitioner had illegality granted pattas to the Government land.
  • Furthermore, the petitioner had the knowledge of the subject lands being forest lands and still did not raise any objection, whether in writing or in words, to the grant of pattas. 
  • The petitioner did not perform any factual test and failed his duty to protect the forest lands.
  • The respondents submitted that the court can interfere in the findings of the disciplinary proceedings only if they are "perverse without supporting reasons".
  • The respondents pleaded that the petitioner should not have acted upon the orders of his superior since the orders were contrary to law. The petitioner, being a Tehsildar, was duty bound to protect the lands of the government and not blindly implement the orders of the superiors.
  • Furthermore, the petitioner helped private parties in gaining pecuniary benefits.The Government suffered losses due to the petitioner's actions.
  • The respondents brought to the Court's notice that the co-delinquent had also been asked to compulsorily retire and when the same had been challenged by the the co-delinquent through a Writ Petition, the matter was remitted to the disciplinary authority on the sole ground that no opportunity had been provided to the co-delinquent.
  • However, in the instant case, sufficient opportunity was given to the petitioner and hence he could not rely on the relief given to the co-delinquent.


  • The Court noted that the petitioner cannot rely on the reliefs that had been granted to the other officials involved in the patta proceedings as the facts differ in each case and "in each case there is some difference".
  • The Court noted that the petitioner implemented the orders of the superior within 8 days and also issued directions to the Deputy Inspector of Survey and Maintenance Firka within 8 days. Ostensibly, the petitioner was working for his own private greed. 
  • The Court noted that while usually the delinquents are usually treated similarly in disciplinary proceedings, the Court had certain reservations in following the Principe in the instant case.
  • The Court observed that mother nature must be protected and preserved. "Indiscriminate destruction or change is leading to several complications in ecosystem, ultimately is endangering the very existence of the animals, flora and fauna, forests, rivers, lakes, water bodies, mountains, glaciers, air and of course human. Strangely the destruction is carried on by few humans."
  • The Court further noted that the natural environment forms a part of right to life. 
  • The Court further observed that the natural environment must not be harmed in the name of sustainable development.
  • The Court stated, "phrases like 'sustainable development', 'the polluter pays', 'the precautionary principle' shall not be allowed anymore."
  • The Court held that since the patta had been cancelled, the punishment must be modified to "stoppage of increment for six months without cumulative effect and consequential monetary benefits shall be conferred on the petitioner".


In this landmark judgment, the Court, while invoking parens patriae jurisdiction, declared "Mother Nature" to be a living being having the status of legal entity and conferred with corresponding rights, liabilities and duties. 

Click here to download the original copy of the judgment

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