Several years later, in 1983, M. C. Mehta moved to New Delhi, where he began his practice in front of the Supreme Court of India. One day, he was approached by a man who railed against the legal profession. After M. C. Mehta pressed for details, the man explained that the Taj Mahal, India’s greatest architectural treasure, was dying. M. C. Mehta investigated the matter and filed suit before the Supreme Court. This lawsuit would launch him on the path to becoming one of the world’s most well-known and effective environmental lawyers.
Since the Taj case, he has filed dozens of major litigations, on environment and human rights, before the Court—and won them all. His litigation has saved some of India’s greatest treasures, including the Taj Mahal and the Ganges River and introduced much needed reform, such as the conversion of Delhi’s vehicle fleet to compressed natural gas and an increased enforcement of child labour laws. In the process, Mr. Mehta has pioneered advancements in the body of Indian environmental jurisprudence, including the Right to a Healthy Environment, the Public Trust Doctrine, the concept of Strict and Absolute Liability and the Polluter Pays and Precautionary Principles. These legal doctrines have made Mr. Mehta an international figure in environmental jurisprudence, emulated by jurists and lawyers throughout the globe.
Mr. Mehta has been the recipient of several international awards, most notably the Goldman Environmental Prize
for Asia of 1996 and the Ramon Magsaysay Award
of 1997. He now spends his time engaged in his legal practice, lecturing on environmental jurisprudence, conducting environmental campaigns and directing the initiatives of the M.C. Mehta Environmental Foundation
, a non-profit, nongovernmental organization that works throughout India for the protection of the environment and human rights.