In 1991 the government of India, recognizing that the ecology of the coast required protection,
issued the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZN) under the EPA and the Environment
Protection Rules.379 The CRZN mandated the preparation of coastal management plans by all
of the coastal states of India and transferred the power to regulate all building and industrial
activities from the local authorities to the central government.
The Supreme Court of India has often been commended for its vital role in protecting the
environment. One of the areas of environmental concern where the Supreme Court’s
involvement has been crucial is the protection and conservation of India’s coastal environment.
Three judgments of Supreme Court not only express deep concern about the state of India’s
coastal environment and the urgent need to protect it, but also establish the principles that the
Court thinks should guide government’s action on the environment generally and the coasts
The three judgments
The first judgment was delivered in Indian Council for Enviro-legal Action v Union of
India [(1996) 5 SCC 281]. It highlighted that Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs)
which were to be prepared by State Governments had not been finalised despite the passage of
the statutory period of one year. It also challenged the amendments made to the law by the
Central Government in 1994 to relax certain prohibitions.In a landmark judgment in S. Jagannath v Union of India the Court referred to expert reports to identify the adverse impacts of coastal pollution caused by nontraditional and unregulated prawn farming
The Court decided that prawn farming industries were prohibited in the coastal regulation zones
under the CRZ Notification 1991 and their functioning was in violation of various other laws.
It, however, excluded traditional systems of aquaculture from this prohibition.
In Vaamika Island v Union of India and Ors. [(2013) 8 SCC 760], the issue before the Court
was whether certain properties on an island in the Vembanad Backwaters of Kerala should
have been categorised as CRZ 1, which restricts its rebuilding or expansion, in Kerala’s CZMP.
The Court held that the properties had been correctly categorised, and that the owner had
violated the law by constructing on these properties. The Court upheld the High Court’s
direction to demolish the illegal structures