Constitutional Provisions related to Environment Protection in India

Environment: Environment refers to the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. Descending from the Middle French preposition environ (around), environment means “that which surrounds.”
The natural environment is a sum up of all living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) elements. These elements influence human life.

Human beings use these natural resources from the environment to survive on this planet.

But, its exploitation has led to its degradation. Social, economic, institutional, and technological factors are responsible for Environmental Degradation in India. Growing population, urbanization, and industrial activities have all resulted in considerable deterioration in the quality and sustainability of the environment.

Constitutional Provisions:

The Constitution of India was adopted in 1950. It did not deal with the subject of protection of the environment until the 1976 amendment.

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm was held (also known as Stockholm Declaration) in 1972. Under the influence of this declaration, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning within the Department of Science and Technology was set up and this Council later evolved into a full-fledged Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1985. Today it is the apex administrative body in the country for regulating and ensuring environmental protection.

After the Stockholm Conference, in 1976, constitutional sanction was given to environmental concerns through the 42nd Amendment, which incorporated them into the Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties.
DPSP (PART IV): Article 48A – Protection and improvement environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife. – The state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Fundamental Duties (PART IVA): Article 51 A (g) – to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
The sole loophole that lies here is that the DPSP and Fundamental Duties are non-enforceable. But, the Judiciary is enforcing them through the Fundamental Rights.

Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
The said article is a Fundamental Right that incorporates numerous other rights, for example, Right to Privacy, Right to Die, etc. Among those rights, it also includes the right to having a decent and clean environment in which individuals can live safely without any threat to their lives. An environment shall be free from diseases and all sorts of infections.
Equality before the law and equal protection of the law has been granted under Article 14 of the Constitution. This fundamental right impliedly casts a duty upon the state to be fair while taking actions regarding environmental protection and thus, cannot infringe article 14. In cases of exercise of arbitrary powers on behalf of the state authorities, the judiciary has played a strict role in disallowing the arbitrary sanction. The use of discretionary powers without measuring the interest of the public violates the fundamental right of equality of the people.

Article 246 divides the subject areas of legislation between the Union and the States.
The Union List (List I) incorporates matters related to national importance. They are defense, foreign affairs, atomic energy, interstate transportation, shipping, air trafficking, oilfields, mines, and inter-state rivers.
The State List (List II) includes public health and sanitation, agriculture, water supplies, irrigation and drainage, fisheries.
The Concurrent List (List III) includes matters under which both State and the Union can legislate. They are forests, protection of wildlife, mines and minerals and development not covered in the Union List, population control, and factories.

From an environmental standpoint, the allocation of legislative authority is an important one. Some environment-related problems like sanitation and waste disposal are best tackled at the local level; others, like water pollution and wildlife protection, are better regulated uniform national laws.

Article 253 empowers the Parliament to make laws implementing India’s international obligations as well as any decision made at an international conference, association, or other body.
Article 253 states: Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provision provisions of this chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for 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 afore-mentioned articles were the constitutional provisions for the protection of the environment. Some significant legislation and acts related to these articles are:
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, The objective of Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1989, The Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules and Amendment 1992, The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000, and The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules 2002.

In an unhealthy environment, the poor suffer the most as they do not have enough resources to afford their health issues. Healthy beings are valuable assets for the country who are fit can contribute much towards the economy and develop the nation thoroughly by paving a path of progress, generating employment, and increasing the GDP.

A clean environment leads to a flourishing nation.

Aishwarya Says:

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