environmental protection under constitution of india

Introduction

A rapid increase in global warming, deforestation, air, water and other forms of pollution is posing a great threat to the environment and its living beings. The degradation of the environment through a plethora of activities carried on by individuals is detrimental to the health of all the living beings, including human beings, plants and animals. 

Fundamental status has been given to the concept of protecting the environment as it is essential to promote human health to have a healthy environment and affords a right to a healthy environment to all. Preserving the environment protects the health of every individual and a healthy individual promotes the development of the environment which is the need of the hour.

The constitution of India is not an inert but a living document which evolves and grows with time. The specific provisions on environment protection in the constitution are also result of this evolving nature and growth potential of the fundamental law of the land. The preamble to our constitution ensures socialist pattern of the society and dignity of the individual. Decent standard of living and pollution free environment is inherent in this.

Provisions in the Constitution

The chapter on fundamental duties of the Indian Constitution clearly imposes duty on every citizen to protect environment. Article 51-A (g), says that “It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.”

The Directive principles under the Indian constitution directed towards ideals of building welfare state. Healthy environment is also one of the elements of welfare state. Article 47 provides that the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties. Article 48 deals with organization of agriculture and animal husbandry. It directs the State to take steps to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. Article 48-A of the constitution says that “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country”.

The Constitution of India under part III guarantees fundamental rights which are essential for the development of every individual and to which a person is inherently entitled by virtue of being human alone. Right to environment is also a right without which development of individual and realisation of his or her full potential shall not be possible. Articles 21, 14 and 19 of this part have been used for environmental protection. Article 21 has received liberal interpretation from time to time after the decision of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, (AIR 1978 SC 597). Article 21 guarantees fundamental right to life. Right to environment, free of danger of disease and infection is inherent in it.

The right to live in a healthy environment as part of Article 21 of the Constitution was first recognized in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State, AIR 1988 SC 2187 (Popularly known as Dehradun Quarrying Case). It is the first case of this kind in India, involving issues relating to environment and ecological balance in which Supreme Court directed to stop the excavation (illegal mining) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 1086 the Supreme Court treated the right to live in pollution free environment as a part of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 and 226 of the constitution of India resulted in a wave of environmental litigation. The leading environmental cases decided by the Supreme Court includes case of closure of limestone quarries in the Dehradun region (Dehradun Quarrying case, AIR 1985 SC 652), the installation of safeguard at a chlorine plant in Delhi (M.C. Mehta V. Union of India, AIR 1988 SC 1037) etc.

Conclusion

This article begins with laying down emphasis on why environmental protection is necessary, why did a need arise to protect the environment followed by the causes of ecological degradation in the introductory part. Various reasons have been considered to be a major factor in polluting the environment and affecting the lives of the people and posing a great threat to other living beings of the country. 

At first, the Indian Government adopted an extremely lackadaisical attitude towards the protection of the environment, by excluding any lawfully enforceable standards in the Constitution of India. Notwithstanding, with the progression of time, the State understood its blunders and in this manner, began putting forth conscious efforts in securing the environment and in creating it too. The development was slow but it occurred in due time.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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