ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IN THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

INTRODUCTION:

Human beings are a product of the environment; hence, a stable environment is a prerequisite for their sustenance. However human beings for their selfish interests have exploited the environment for all its worth causing its deterioration and destruction. While the environment has endlessly nourished its inhabitants, man’s greed for economic benefits poses a great danger to ecological balance.  With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, the dependency on limited resources increased. This led to the depletion of natural resources making legislation on environmental protection the need of the hour.

However, before the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, treaties largely focussed on the protection of wildlife, regulation of fisheries, utilisation of water and riparian rights. International agreements like the Convention on Protection of Birds useful for agriculture of 1902 failed to discuss the key aspects such as the impact of human activities on the environment or the importance of environmental rights for a decent standard of living for human beings.  It was only in the 1960s after the critically acclaimed book Silent Springs by Rachel Carson gained popularity did legislators begin to understand the need for sustainable development. The recognition of the need for environmental protection and acknowledgement of environmental rights took place in India only after such developments in the international forum. This article aims to shed light on the constitutional provisions regarding environmental protection and the evolution of precedents in environmental jurisprudence.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IN THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA:

It is evident from the original constitution that it was not the intention of the drafters of the Constitution of India to provide for environmental protection. It was only after the 42nd Amendment Act, of 1976 that articles relating to the environment were introduced in the Constitution of India. The Amendment Act was enacted to implement the principles of the Stockholm Declaration of 1972 which brought awareness about the need for environmental protection across nations. 

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment,1972 also known as The Stockholm Declaration instigated the discussion on contemporary environmental issues of the time and the need for environmental protection for economic development. It consists of 26 principles that deal with various aspects such as wildlife protection, environmental rights, exploitation of natural resources environmental policy, education in environmental matters, international legislation, promotion of research and development in developing nations, etc. Article 51(c) of the Constitution imposes an obligation on the State to take measures to comply with international law. Hence, these themes are reflected in Articles 48-A and 51-A(g) included by the amendment to the Constitution.

DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY:

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are contained in part IV of the Constitution of India from Articles 36 – 51. They are a set of instructions to the Executive in administrative matters and are enforceable in the Court of Law. According to the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, DR. Ambedkar, DPSP must be used as a tool to examine the competency of political parties in power.  

According to Article 48- A the State must strive to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country. Principle 4 of the Stockholm Declaration emphasizes the protection of wildlife while principle 12 specifies the duty to preserve and improve the environment. This article aims to guide the State to frame policies that control industrial waste that cause harm to human health and the atmosphere.

In the M.C Mehta v Union of India[1], the issue was that the industrial effluents from the leather industry were polluting the river of Ganga which destroyed the ecosystem. The Honourable Supreme Court of India drew attention to the need to curb the nuisance by effective treatment measures. It directed the Central and the State governments to take steps to control the water pollution caused by this issue.

Another DPSP that stresses the importance of environmental protection is Article 47 which talks about the duty to improve the standard of living and public health of the citizens. Due to the nature of the relationship between man and nature, sustainable development becomes imperative for the betterment of the quality of human life.

Article 49 of the Constitution talks about the duty of the State to protect the monument, place, or object of artistic or national importance. This indirectly calls for environmental measures as the preservation of such monuments requires its protection from the destruction or disfigurement caused by harsh climatic conditions.  The Taj Mahal Case [2], dealt with the impact of emissions generated by industries using coal or coke that caused the degradation of the Taj Mahal. The judgement directed the industries to control the air pollution caused by it to safeguard the historical monument.

FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES:

Article 51-A of Part IV-A of the Constitution consists of the Fundamental duties to act as a guide to the democratic behaviour of the citizens of India. Article 51-A(g) urges the citizens to “protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures”. The common people often contribute to environmental degradation using their day-to-day activities. Though they do not cause great damage at an individual level, the cumulative effect of their actions is significant.  

In the case, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v State of U.P[1], the Supreme Court of India observed that protection of the environment was as much a duty of the citizen as it is that of the State. The citizens have a social obligation to preserve ecological balance.

EVOLUTION OF RIGHT TO ENVIRONMENT AS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT:

Fundamental rights are the basic human rights bestowed upon human beings to preserve their dignity. Part III of the Constitution contains fundamental rights. Article 21 of the Constitution provides that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. In the U. S case Munn v Illinois[1], it was observed that the right to life does not mean mere animal existence. Therefore, the right to life also includes the right to human dignity. Over the years the scope of Article 21 has grown to include the right to privacy, right free legal aid, right against custodial death, right against delayed execution, right against solitary confinement, etc. It also includes the right to a clean environment, pollution-free water, and the right to health. Such rights inevitably require the protection of the environment.

In the Oleum Gas Leak case[2], the Supreme court established a new rule in the law of torts known as absolute liability. In this case, the issue was the liability of Shriram Food and Fertilizer ltd pertaining to a gas leak that affected several lives.  The Supreme Court held that industries dealing with hazardous material have the responsibility for protecting the lives of the people and are absolutely liable in case of a failure to do so.

In L.K Koolwal v State of Rajasthan[3], the sanitization issue in the city of Jaipur was brought before the Rajasthan High Court. The Court recognised that the maintenance of health, preservation of sanitation, and environment as a right to life as per article 21 of the Constitution as a hazardous environment adversely affects the life of the citizen.

However, the Supreme Court of India explicitly recognised the right to environment as the right to life only in 1995 in Virender Gaur v State of Haryana[4], the Supreme Court held that the right to human dignity includes the protection and preservation of the environment, ecological balance free from pollution of air and water and sanitation without which a healthy human life cannot be sustained.

CONCLUSION:

Despite the right to a quality environment being recognised as a requisite in the 1st principle of the Stockholm Deceleration, it was recognised by our judiciary much later. Indian lawmakers are working incessantly to comply with international standards and to advance environmental preservation. Even recently, both houses of the parliament recently passed The Indian Antarctica Bill, in 2022 to protect the Antarctic environment and dependent ecosystems based on the Antarctic Treaty. In spite of such efforts in the domestic and international forums, environmental deterioration is at an all-time high. Hence, legislative measures need to be more drastic to effect significant improvements.


REFERENCES:

  1. Report of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, Stockholm, 1972, United Nations Publications https://www.un.org/en/conferences/environment/stockholm1972
  2. One Hundred Eighty-Sixth Report on Proposal to Constitute Environment Courts, Law Commission of India, September 2003 https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/186th%20report.pdf
  3. The Indian Constitution and The Role of the Indian Judiciary system in Protection of Environment in India https://ssrn.com/abstract=3375640
  4. Overview of Environmental Jurisprudence within Environmental Ethics https://doi.org/10.26858/jo.v6i1.15007
  5. Monsoon Session, 2022 of Parliament which commenced on the 18th of July https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1849999
  6. https://www.scconline.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuuKXBhCRARIsAC-gM0hCzZdRDWy16guUiA6IcA9l-ULVTOYFUjkOmiL3PA_c9mt9Y6rN93waAvKeEALw_wcB

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. J.N Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, Central Law Agency
  2. A.K Tiwari, Environmental Laws in India, Deep and Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd.

CASE CITATION

[1] (1877) 94 U.S 113

[2] AIR 1987 SC 965

[3] AIR 1988 Raj 2

[4] (1995) 2 SCC 577

[1] AIR 1987 SC 359

[1] (1987) 1 SCC 471

[2] AIR 1997 SC 734

Aishwarya Says:

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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.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at secondinnings.hr@gmail.com

In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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