In India, the protection of the environment has been apparent since ancient times.
In India, during the establishment of the Constitution, the Drafting Committee has not focused on the appearance towards the protection of the environment and doesn't formulate any policy for the same.
After the Stockholm Declaration, 1972, which is also known as Magna Carta, India was one of the endorsed countries headed by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, she expressed solicitude about the emission of the environment and ecological imbalances.
To accomplish the statement made in Stockholm Declaration the Parliament of India had passed 42nd Amendment Act to the Constitution in 1976 and incorporated two articles i.e. Articles 48A and 51A (g) for environment protection.
Article 48A says that this Article comes under the Directive principle of the State policy. This article implies that the State shall attempt to protect the environment.
Article 51A(g) says 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 creatures.”
In Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the state must take appropriate and emphatic actions for the protection of the environment enshrined under Article21, 48-A, and 51-A(g).
‘Environment’ defined under the sec 2( a ) of Environmental Protection Act, 1986, ‘Environment’ includes Water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between, water, air, land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganisms and property.
The main acts for environment protection in India are as follows:-
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution, 1981.
The Environmental Protection Act, 1986. (It came into force soon after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy)
The Environmental Conservation Act. 1989.
The Prevention of Air and Water Pollution, 1974, 1981 (The Central Pollution Control Board ) (CPCB ) was constituted under this act.
Handling and Management of Hazardous Waste Rule in 1989
The Public Liability Insurance Act (Rules and Amendment ), 1992.
The Biomedical Waste Management and Handling Rules, 1998.
The Environment ( Siting for Industrial Projects ) Rules, 1999.
The Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling ) Rules, 2000.
The Ozone Depleting Substance (Regulation and Control ) Rules, 2000.
The Biological Diversity Act 2002.
Fundamental rights for protection of environment
Apart from the Article 48A and 51A(g) some of the fundamental rights (such as Article 14, 19, 21 and 32 ) consolidated in the Part III of the Constitution act as a rescuer for the environment.
Article 14 -: Right to Equality and Environment Protection.
This talks about the equality before law and equal protection of law has been granted to every citizen without any discrimination.
This implies that any further action taken by the state for the protection of the environment shall not supersede the right to equality mentioned under the jurisdiction of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The operation of discretionary power without gauging the interest of the public violates the fundamental rights of equality of the people.
In Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi (1981) 1 SCC 722. The Supreme Court of India overturned an arbitrary official sanction on environmental matters, ruling that it violated Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
Article 19(1)(a): Freedom of Speech and Expression and Environmental Protection
The right of speech and expression is a fundamental right lucidly envisaged Article 19(1)(a) of Part III of the Constitution.
There are various cases where people have spoken with the court through speech and expressed themselves by writing letters where they talked about the violation of rights to have a safe and clean environment and a right to livelihood.
Article 19(6) of the Constitution lays down the legitimate restrictions to this fundamental right to peril environment hazards.
Thus safeguards for environmental protection are latent in this. The courts have to moderate the environmental attentives with the fundamental rights for any further trade.
● The motive is to assert the ecological imbalance of atmosphere in the name of carrying business, trade or carrying on any profession, thus carrying the name of any trade or business one cannot harm the environment.
In Abhilash Textile vs Rajkot Municipal Corporation AIR 1988 Guj 57. The petitioner was engaged in the business of dying and printing in the Rajkot area, where untreated water from the factory was released on the public roads and public drains which caused health issues to the public.
The Gujarat High Court said that the petitioner has no absolute right to cause harm in the name of factory, occupation and business under Article 19 (1) (g). The court ordered the closure of the factory and said one cannot make profit while causing harm to others.
In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2006) 3 SCC 399. The Supreme Court held that if any residential building is converted for commercial purposes, it is a violation of municipal laws and environmental laws.
Substantially commercial activities are not permitted to operate in residential areas because it would cause environmental pollution. Further Supreme Court orders for sealing such residential premises and holding restrictions on using residential buildings for commercial purposes were not a violation of freedom of trade and business under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution.
In M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, (2000) 6 SCC 213. The Supreme Court held that the hotel industries accomplish their untreated outflow into rivers which causes water pollution and affects the flora and fauna hence it cannot be permitted to work. Any disturbance that causes air, water, land which are important elements for life, can be termed as environmental pollution.
Thus after exercising its jurisdiction, the court not only restricts their court but also imposed fine, outstanding damages to the hotel industry under Article 32 for causing environmental pollution.
Protection of life and property is embodied in Article 21. It asserts “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. This article does not directly bestow the protection of the environment but by several judicial proclamations on diverse occasions have extended the jurisdictions right to life and personal liberty including various unspoken liberties as completely acknowledged in Article 21 of Indian Constitution.
In L.K. Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan and Others AIR 1988 Raj 2. The Rajasthan High Court held that the vindicate the quality of water, sanitation, environment and wellbeing come under the jurisdiction of Article 21. In this case the municipality of Jaipur was non-compliance and reckless towards the basic duty which adversely affected the lives of numerous people. Due to carelessness many people are suffering from numerous diseases which are decreasing the life of the citizens.
In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India,(1987) 4 SCC 463. It is also known as the Ganga Pollution Case. In this case, Singh J. stated that the termination of tanneries may create unemployment but also there is a loss of revenue, but life and health have greater importance for people because no person shall be divested of his life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Right to Constitutional Remedies and Environment Protection
Most of the cases that are related to environmental pollution and ecological imbalances are under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India.
Article 32 is a well known fundamental right where the aggrieved party can file a writ petition or any individual or any non related person can file a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) to the Supreme Court of India concerning the matter about pernicious environment and any activity imperil the humans.
Suggestions for protecting environment
There are several laws and legislations made by the government for the protection of the environment, but steps taken by the State are not enough to control the protection of the environment.
It is imperative that every citizen must take action to control the environment . These steps are
● Instead of throwing garbage on the roadside, use dustbins. It helps in reducing garbage pollution and also helps people stay healthy.
● Set up a proper treatment plant in industries and factories so that unfiltered water does not affect the life of aquatic animals and health of livelihood.
● Creating social awareness of how pollution adversely affects the environment.
● Start the campaign of afforestation.
● Minimise food wastage
● Usage of few chemicals
● Lessen the volume of waste being dumped in landfill and oceans.
It is our responsibility to protect the environment from being polluted or destroyed. It is mandatory to raise awareness among the people as to how due to our
carelessness and lackness pollution is increasing on a daily basis and how every one of us is responsible for climate change and severe consequences for the environment as well as living creatures on the earth.
Human beings can ensure fundamental equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment that permits a life of dignity and well-being.
Overpopulation, global warming and deforestation will also adversely affect the environment.
To unravel the situation UNO organises various international conventions and declarations for creating awareness regarding environmental pollution, to implement such strategies which helps the global nation in diminishing the pollution level.
Human life and nature are correlated and complementary. Thus to maintain the balance between human development and the environment, then, it is the moral and fundamental duty of human beings to preserve and protect the environment including, air, water (including water reservoirs, sea, lakes, etc.), sky, forests, flora, and fauna. Life on this earth can never be imagined without the environmental balance. Environmental protection is required to survive on this earth.
This article is written by Rituja Gupta of Law College Dehradun.