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Indian Case Summary

Research Foundation For Science … vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Anr. on 5 January, 2005 – Case Summary

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In the case of Research Foundation for Science vs Union of India (UOI) and Anr, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a significant environmental issue concerning the illegal import and disposal of hazardous waste. The case was presided over by Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice S. Kapadia.

Facts of the Case

The case was initiated due to the alarming situation created by the dumping of hazardous waste and its detrimental impact on the environment, flora, and fauna. The court noted the failure of authorities to appreciate the gravity of the situation and the need for prompt measures to prevent serious and adverse consequences. As a result, a High Powered Committee (HPC) was constituted by the court to examine all matters related to hazardous waste.

The case specifically dealt with 133 containers of hazardous waste oil lying at Nhava Sheva Port. Laboratory tests confirmed that the oil in these containers was indeed hazardous waste. The court came to the prima facie conclusion that the importers had illegally imported waste oil under the guise of lubricating oil.

Issues and Court Observations

The court had to decide whether the consignments should be ordered to be re-exported or destroyed at the importers’ cost. The importers were also required to show cause why they should not be directed to make payment of compensation on the polluter pays principle and why other action should not be taken against them.

The court observed that the question to be determined in these proceedings was limited to the environmental issue. The main question was whether directions should be issued for the destruction of the consignments to protect the environment and, if not, how the consignments should be dealt with.


The court, after considering the report of the HPC, the result of the laboratory test, and the entire material on record, concluded that the importers had illegally imported waste oil. The court directed that the consignments should either be re-exported or destroyed at the importers’ cost. The court also directed the importers to pay the cost of the laboratory tests and compensation on the polluter pays principle.

The court further recommended that the importers should bear all the testing charges incurred by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Customs from the initial stage until the final disposal of goods. The court also divided the 15 importers into five different categories based on the nature of their consignments and recommended different actions for each category.

The court’s decision in this case underscores the importance of environmental protection and the strict enforcement of laws related to the import and disposal of hazardous waste. It also highlights the principle of ‘polluter pays’, which holds that those who cause pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to the environment or human health.