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PLD 1994 SC 693

SHEHLA ZIA AND OTHERS

Versus

WAPDA (WORKS AND POWER DEVELOPMENTS AUTHORITY)

Per Saleem Akhtar, J.

(a) Constitution of Pakistan (1973), Articles 184, 9 & 14:

Articles 184(3), 9 & 14 — Public interest litigation — Human rights — Apprehension of citizens of the area against construction of grid station by authority — Supreme Court, on receipt of letter from citizens in that respect, found that the letter raised two questions namely whether any Government agency had a right to endanger the life of citizens by its actions without the latter’s consent and whether zoning laws vest rights in citizens which could not be withdrawn or altered without the citizen’s consent — Citizens, under Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan were entitled to protection of law from being exposed to hazards of electro magnetic field or any other such hazards which may be due to installation and construction of any grid station, any factory, power station or such like installations — Article 184 of the Constitution therefore, could be invoked because a large number of citizens throughout the country could not make such representation and may not like to make it due to ignorance, poverty and disability — Considering the gravity of the matter which could involve and affect the life and health of the citizens at large, notice was issued by Supreme Court to the Authority — Trend of opinion of scientists and scholars was that likelihood of adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on human health could not be ruled out — Subject being highly technical, Supreme Court declined to give definite finding particularly when the experts and technical evidence produced was inconclusive — Supreme Court observed that in such circumstances the balance should be struck between the rights of the citizens and also the plans which were executed by the Authority for the welfare, economic progress and prosperity of the country and if there were threats of serious damage, effective measures should be taken to control it and it should not be postponed merely on the ground that the scientific research and studies were uncertain and not conclusive — With the consent of both the parties Court appointed Commission to examine the plan and the proposals/schemes of the Authority in the light of complaint made by the citizens and submit its report and if necessary to suggest any alteration or addition which may be economically possible for construction and location of the grid station — Supreme Court further directed that Government should establish an Authority or Commission manned by internationally known and recognized scientists having no bias
and prejudice, to members of the Commission whose opinion or permission should be obtained before any new grind station was allowed to be constructed — Authority, therefore, was directed by the Supreme Court that in future, prior to installing or constructing any grind station and/or transmission line, it would issue public notice in newspapers, radio and television inviting objections and finalize the plan after considering the
objections, if any, by affording public hearing to the persons filing objections — Such procedure was directed to be adopted and continued till such time the Government constituted any Commission or Authority as directed by the Court.
In the present case, citizens having apprehension against construction of a grid station in residential area sent a letter to the Supreme Court for consideration as a human rights case raising two questions; namely, whether any Government agency has a right to endanger the life of citizens by its actions without the latter’s consent; and secondly, whether zoning laws vest rights in citizens which cannot be withdrawn or altered without the citizens’ consent. Considering the gravity of the matter which may involve and affect the life and health of the citizens at large, notice was issued to the Authority.[p. 700]A

Article 184(3) — Public interest litigation — Pollution and environmental degradation — Where life of citizens is degraded, the quality of life is adversely affected and health hazards are created affecting a large number of people, Supreme Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan may grant relief to the extent of stopping the functioning of such units which crate pollution and
environmental degradation. [p.715]O

Article 9 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law. The word “life” is very significant as it covers all facts of human existence. The word “life” has not been defined in the Constitution but it does not mean nor can be restricted only to the vegetative or animal life or mere existence from conception to death. Life includes all such amenities an facilities which a
person born in a free country is entitled to enjoy with dignity, legally and constitutionally. A person is entitled to protection of law from being exposed to hazards of electromagnetic fields or any other such hazards which may be due to installation and construction of any grind station, any
factory, power station or such like installations. Under the common law a person whose right of easement, property or health is adversely affected by any act of omission or commission of a third person in the neighbourhood or at a far-off place, he is entitled to seek an injunction and also claim damages, but the Constitutional rights are higher than the legal rights conferred by law be it municipal law or the common law. Such a danger as
depicted, the possibility of which cannot be excluded, is bound to affect a large number of people who may suffer from it unknowingly because of back of awareness, information and education and also because such sufferance is silent and fatal and most of the people who would be residing near, under or at a dangerous distance of the grid station or such installation do not know that they are facing any risk or are likely to suffer by such risk. Therefore, Article 184 can be invoked because a large number of citizens throughout the country cannot make such representation and may not like to make it due to ignorance, poverty and disability. Only some conscientious citizens aware of their rights and the possibility of danger come forward. [p. 712]K

The term “life” in terms of Article 9 of the Constitution is so wide that the danger and encroachment complained of would impinge fundamental right of a citizen. In this view of the matter the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 is maintainable. [p. 713]L
Article 14 provides that the dignity of man and subject to law the privacy of home shall be inviolable. The fundamental right to preserve and protect the dignity of man under Article 14 is unparalleled and could be found only in few Constitution of the world. [p.714]N
Where life of citizens is degraded, the quality of life is adversely affects and health hazards are created affecting a large number of people the Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution may grant relief to the extent of stopping the functioning of units which create pollution and environmental degradation. [p.715]O
Article 14 — Fundamental right to preserve and protect the dignity of man under Article 14 is unparalleled and could be found only in few Constitution of the World.

Article 14 provides that the dignity of man and subject to law the privacy of home shall be inviolable. The fundamental right to preserve and protect the dignity of man under Article 14 is unparalleled and could be found only in few Constitution of the World. [p. 7214]N

Advocate for the Petitioner :
Dr. Parvez Hasan

For the Respondent.
Tariq Malik, Project Director, WAPDA

Date of hearing : 12th of February, 1994.

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