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SC stays Uttarakhand HC's order on Ganga, Yamuna

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has stayed an order of the Uttarakhand High Court that declared the Ganga and Yamuna rivers as living entities and bestowed upon them the same rights as given to human beings.

The stay comes in the wake of the Uttarakhand Government last month moving the Supreme Court challenging the Uttarakhand HC's order granting the two rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities.

Calling the March 20 order of the Uttarakhand HC “unsustainable in the law” and with various legal repercussions, the State Government had sought a stay through a Special Leave Petition.

The State Government had also asked the apex court to consider "substantial questions of law" arising from the Uttarakhand HC order.

The state's plea asked that in case of human casualties in a flood, can the affected people file suit for damages against the chief secretary and whether the state government would be liable to such financial burden.

Citing the example of New Zealand's Whanganui River, which is revered by indigenous Maori people and was declared a living entity with full legal rights by the New Zealand Government, the Uttarakhand high Court had in its March 2017 order granted the two rivers and their glaciers a new-found legal identity, saying they will now be eligible to all rights laid out in the Indian Constitution.

They can also be parties to all legal disputes, the court said.

The HC had also named the Namami Gange director, Uttarakhand advocate general and chief secretary as guardians of the rivers. The three officials will act as legal custodians responsible for conserving and protecting the two rivers and their tributaries.

The HC also gave the three officials power to initiate action on behalf of the two rivers to protect them. However, the officials will also be liable for penalty if anyone files a complaint against the rivers.

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