Constitution and Environment Protection

The Indian Constitution has placed environment protection on a high stand by imposing duties on both the state and the citizens. There is a directive to the State for protection and improvement of environment. The Constitution also imposes on every citizen a fundamental duty to help in the preservation of natural environment. This is the testimony of Government’s awareness of a problem of worldwide concern. Since protection of environment is now a fundamental duty of every citizen, it is natural that every individual should do it as personal obligation, merely by regulating the mode of his natural life. The citizen has simply to develop a habitual love for pollution. 

There are many Constitutional provisions with regard to environment protection. The right to clean environment has been brought under the ambit of Article 21, the right to life through various judicial decisions. Article 51-A(g) has also been an important facet to the environment protection. Article 51-A(g) states that “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living organisms. Other articles including article 47 and 48 also deal with environment.  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. The improvement of public health also includes the protection and improvement of environment without which public health cannot be assured.  Article 48-A states that “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country”.

It is important to know in detail Article 21 to understand the importance to right to environment as a fundamental right. Article 21 states that ‘no person shall be deprived of his right to life or personal liberty except in accordance with procedures established by law.’ Through various cases, the judiciary has expanded the meaning of right to life. In the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1985 SCR (3) 168) the Court emphasised on the need for clean environment as one of the fundamental to right to life. In the case of MC Mehta v Union of India, the Court held that everyone has the right to a pollution free environment. In the case of Sher Singh v. Himachal Pradesh, it was held that ever citizen had a right to a wholesome and clean environment. There are numerous other decision that the judiciary has made with regard to environment protection. By bringing the necessity of a clean environment under the ambit of Article 2, the judiciary essentially placed a duty on the state to ensure that no citizen is deprived of the state. This leads to preservation of environment. 

Part XI of the Constitution lays down the matters and the powers of both the state and the centre. This is in order to prevent any clash between the state and the centre in matters of decision making and to prevent the state to overpower the state governments.  There are 3 lists that the Constitution puts forth which divides the subjects that the centre and state deal with. They are the

  1. Union List
  2. State List
  3. Concurrent List

Concurrent list refers to the list of matters which both the centre as well as the state can make decisions. Protection of forests, wildlife, conservation of mines, population control etc are brought under this list. In case both the state and the centre make decisions on a said matter belonging to the concurrent list, the decision of the Centre prevails over the state. 

In the situation of national emergency, Parliament has the power to legislate the state subjects also. The division of these legislative powers is essential to make provisions which can deal with environmental problems.  Also, in an instance where 2 or more states have requested the Parliament to make a decision on a said State list matter, the Parliament can do so. The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 are 2 laws that have been passed by the Parliament despite falling within the ambit of the State and Concurrent list. 

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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