5th of June, World Environment Day, so let’s look into what are the laws that protect environment in India, it is worth noting that natural resources have been kept in the Earth for millions of years, essentially unaltered. However, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, vast amounts of these resources have been harnessed at inconceivable rates in a matter of hundreds of years, with all of the waste from this exploitation ending up in the environment (air, water, and land) and seriously disrupting natural processes.

The role of the judiciary in ensuring the preservation of life and personal rights in a democratic system cannot be overstated. India has a well-developed judicial system, with the Supreme Court having plenary powers to issue any order necessary to carry out complete justice in any case or matter, as well as a constitutional obligation for all civil and judicial agencies in India to assist the Supreme Court. The High Courts’ Writ Jurisdiction is broader than previously thought, and the judiciary is autonomous and independent from the administrative branch to maintain impartiality in the administration of justice.

There are two concerns to consider when examining the function of the court in environmental governance.

  • The first is the judiciary’s involvement in environmental law interpretation and legislation, and
  • The second is jurists’ capacity to properly interpret the increasingly intertwined concerns brought to their notice.

The Constitution of India and the Environment 

It is a constitutional obligation to safeguard and develop the environment. It is a commitment for a country committed to welfare state ideals. Environmental protection is specifically addressed in the Indian constitution’s Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties chapters. Judicial activity in recent years has highlighted the lack of any express provision in the Constitution recognizing the basic right to (clean and healthy) environment.

Article 48A of the Constitution: In the 1970s, a worldwide awareness of the need to conserve the environment pushed the Indian government to approve the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution (1976). Art. 48A was added to the Directive Principles of State Policy as a result of the revision. It states: “The State should attempt to maintain and improve the environment, as well as the country’s forests and wildlife.”

 Art. 51(A) (g), which is one of the fundament duties, states “to maintain and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Article 246: The subject areas of legislation are divided between the Union and the States under Art. 246 of the Constitution. Defense, international affairs, atomic energy, interstate transportation, shipping, air trafficking, oilfields, mining, and interstate rivers are among the items on the Union List (List I). Agriculture, water supply, irrigation and drainage, and fisheries are all included in the State List (List II). Forests, wildlife protection, mining and minerals, development not covered by the Union List, population control, and industries are all on the concurrent list (List III), which both the State and the Union can legislate under.

Article 253: Article 253 of the Constitution gives Parliament the authority to enact legislation to carry out India’s foreign commitments, as well as any decisions reached at an international convention, organization, or other organization. Regardless of the foregoing provisions of this chapter, Parliament has the power to make any law for the whole or any part of India’s territory for the purpose of implementing any treaty, agreement, or convention with any other country or countries, or any decision made at any international conference, association, or other body. The Tiwari Committee recommended in 1980 that a new entry on “environmental protection” be added to the concurrent list to allow the center to legislate on environmental issues because there was no direct entry in the 7th seventh that allowed Parliament to enact comprehensive environmental legislation. However, the suggestion took into account the competence of parliament under Article 253 of the Constitution.

Article 14 and Article 19 (1): Article 14 states “The states must not refuse to any person within the territory of India equality before the law or equal protection of the laws.” Government policies that have an influence on the environment may also infringe on the right to equality. Because an arbitrary action must entail a denial of equality, urban environmental organizations frequently use Art. 14 to overturn arbitrary municipal authorization for building that violates development laws.

Article 21 (Right to a Healthy Environment): “No one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty unless in accordance with legal procedures.”

Statutory laws on environmental issues:

The Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) act of 1974

The Act restricts the discharge of contaminants into water bodies over a certain level and imposes fines for non-compliance. It established the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which sets standards for water pollution prevention and control. The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) works under the direction of the CPCB at the state level. The functions of the CPCB are outlined in section 16, whereas the functions of the SPCB are outlined in section 17. Section 2 specifies how effluents will be sampled for testing.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981)

The Air Act was established by the Parliament under Article 253 to execute the resolution reached at the Stockholm Conference, it primarily regulates air pollution and its reduction. Air quality criteria are also established. Emission standards are separately announced by the Central and State Boards established under sections 16 and 17. Within a defined air pollution region, every industrial operator must get a permit from the State Board (Sec-21(1) and (2)). The board must complete the formalities – either grant or deny approval – within four months of the date of the permission application.

The Environment (Protection) Act empowers the federal government to safeguard and enhance environmental quality, control and decrease pollution from all sources, and ban or restrict the establishment and/or operation of any industrial facility based on environmental considerations.

The Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules and Amendment, 1992, was enacted to offer public liability insurance for the aim of giving quick redress to those who have been injured while handling dangerous substances.

Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules: Every local body responsible for the collection, segregation, storage, transportation, processing, and disposal of solid waste is subject to the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules.

Case laws enhancing the ambit of Environment Protection:

M.C. Mehta v Union of India (CNG Vehicle Case) (AIR 2002 SC 1696)

The Supreme Court of India held in M.C. Mehta v Union of India (CNG Vehicle Case) (AIR 2002 SC 1696) that any “auto-policy” made by the government must, by necessity, adhere to constitutional principles as well as the legislative requirements imposed on the government under the EPA. The car policy should follow “precautionary principles” and provide well-informed suggestions that balance transportation requirements with environmental protection.

The “polluter pays” notion emerged in the 1970s, when the importance of the environment and its preservation became widely recognized. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) later advocated it.

L.K Kollwal VS State of Rajasthan

A simple writ suit by inhabitants of Jaipur forced the municipal officials to provide proper sanitation in L.K Kollwal VS State of Rajasthan. When every person has a constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment (Art. 51A), the person must be able to enlist the court’s assistance in enforcing that obligation against refractory State authorities, according to the court. The government was given six months to clean up the entire city, and the government’s claim of a lack of cash and manpower was disregarded.

The Taj Mahal Case:

In M C Mehta V. Union of India, AIR 1997, SC 734, the Supreme Court ordered that coal and coke-based companies in Taj Trapezium (TTZ) that were causing damage to Taj should either switch to natural gas or be transferred outside TTZ. The Supreme Court has once again ordered the Forest Department to safeguard the plants planted around the Taj: “The Divisional Forest Officer, Agra is urged to take immediate steps to ensure that water is given to the plants. The Union Government is ordered to transfer the monies without delay, without waiting for the U.P. Government to submit a proposal based on a copy of the report. Funding may be arranged later with the Uttar Pradesh government, but in any case, the officer is to ensure that plants do not wither due to a lack of finances. The Court ruled those 292 enterprises in Agra must switch to natural gas as an industrial fuel within a set time frame or cease operations and move. From April 30, 1997, industries that have not applied for gas or moved must stop using coke/coal. Shifting industries will be provided incentives under the Agra Master Plan, as well as the incentives that are generally granted to new industrial units.

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