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Sukhna Lake is a living entity

Topics Covered: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

Sukhna Lake is a living entity

What to study?

For Prelims: Legal entity- meaning, implications and previous examples, Sukhna Lake.

For Mains: Significance of this move and need for such protection.

Context: The Punjab and Haryana high court has declared Sukhna Lake a “living entity” or “legal person” with rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

It also declared all citizens of Chandigarh as loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to save the lake from extinction.

Background:

The order was passed in a 2009 suo motu petition initiated amid depleting water level in the lake.

What the order says?

  1. Sukhna Lake will now be a legal entity for its survival, preservation and conservation.
  2. The Chandigarh administration has been directed to declare it a wetland within a period of three months.
  3. All structures in Sukhna’s catchment area (which was demarcated by the Survey of India in 2004) should be demolished, and affected owners whose building plans have been approved should be relocated in the vicinity of Chandigarh and they should be compensated with ₹25 lakh each.
  4. Chandigarh should ensure that the average capacity of the lake is increased by at least about 100-150 hectare by one-time large scale desilting.
  5. Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh have also been told to lower the storage capacity of the check dams to ensure regular flow of water into the lake.
  6. Chandigarh will have to ensure that there is no seepage losses.
  7. The aquatic weeds are ordered to be removed within a period of six months.

Polluter pays principle:

Invoking the ‘polluter pays’ principle of environmental law, the Court said in its order: “The States should have taken precautionary measures to save the catchment of Sukhna lake. It is the duty of the States of Punjab and Haryana to restore the catchment area. The State government has also failed to take precautionary measures to save the catchment area. The damage caused to the catchment area is enormous.”

What is legal entity?

A legal entity means entity which acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law.

About Sukhna lake:

The man-made Sukhna Lake was built in 1958 by Le Corbusier, the architect of Chandigarh. Located in the foothills of the Shivalik Hills, it was designed to collect runoff water from the Hills. The Lake, which is in the process of being officially notified as a wetland, also has a nearby wildlife sanctuary that is home to sambar, pangolin, wild boars, red jungle fowl, cobras and other species.

Facts for Prelims:

In 2018, a bench presided over by justice Sharma had accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in Haryana. In Uttarakhand high court, justice Sharma was part of a bench in 2017, which declared the Ganga and Yamuna as living entities, a verdict that was later stayed by the Supreme Court. In June 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ruled that all animals, birds and aquatic life in Haryana would be accorded the status of legal persons or entities.

 

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Location of Sukhna lake.
  2. Geographical location of such water bodies.
  3. Constitutional provisions in this regard.

Mains Link:

What are legal entities? What rights do they enjoy?

 

Sources: the Hindu.