“Right to Clean and Healthy Environment” as a Fundamental Right in India as Article 21 of the constitution of India provides for right to life and personal liberty, it states “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” The Judiciary has played a vital role in interpreting the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Scope of Article 21 of the Constitution has been considerably expanded by the Indian Supreme Court, which has interpreted the right of life to mean the right to live a civilized life and it also includes the right to clean environment. Following are some important Judicial pronouncements by the Apex Court of India in this regards:
Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar,
In the instant case the Court observed that ‘right to life guaranteed by article 21 includes the right of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life.’
Rural Litigation and Environment Kendra, Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
In this case, the Court treated this letter as a public interest petition under Article 32 of the Constitution and ordered the closure of a number of limestone quarries. Although the Court did not mention any violation of fundamental right explicitly but as well as impliedly admitted the adverse effects to the life of people and involved a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.
C. Mehta vs. Union of India (Vehicular Pollution Case)
A matter regarding the vehicular pollution in Delhi city, it was held to be the duty of the Government to see that the air did not become contaminated due to vehicular pollution. The Apex court again confirming the right to healthy environment as a basic human right and stated that the right to clean air also stemmed from Art 21 which referred to right to life. This case has served to be a major landmark because of which lead-free petrol supply was introduced in Delhi. There was a complete phasing out old commercial vehicles more than 5 years old as directed by the courts.
N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India
Court held that threat to the ecology can lead to violation of the right of enjoyment of healthy life guaranteed under Art 21, which is required to be protected. The Constitution enjoins upon this Court a duty to protect the environment. “Right to Clean and Healthy Environment” as a Fundamental Right in India
Constitutional mandates on Protection of Environment
The Constitution of India originally adopted, did not contain any direct and specific provision regarding the protection of natural environment. Perhaps, the framers of the Indian Constitution, at that time, considered it as a negligible issue. However, in fact it contained only a few Directives to the State on some aspects relating to public health, agriculture and animal husbandry. “Right to Clean and Healthy Environment” as a Fundamental Right in India These Directives were and are still not judicially enforceable. Some of the Directive Principles of State Policy showed a slight inclination towards environmental protection i.e. Art 39(b), Art 47, Art 48 and Art 49 individually and collectively impose a duty on the State to create conditions to improve the general health level in the country and to protect and improve the natural environment. Later through constitutional amendment two specific provisions i.e. Article 48-A and Article 51-A (g), have been added which imposes duty on state as well as the citizens of the state to protect and conserve the environment.
ENACTED LAWS FOR ENIVORMENT PROTECTION
- Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act of 1905
- Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act of 1912
- Wild Birds and Animal Protection Act 1912
- River Boards Act of 1956
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act in 1981
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
LIMITATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS IN INDIA
“Right to Clean and Healthy Environment” as a Fundamental Right in India well in this regard. The current corpus of environmental law in India suffers from a lot of disabilities. Though the laws are stiff yet there are certain loopholes which cause the weakening of the provisions and there is a need for a lot of improvement in the environmental laws in India-
- Lack of elasticity of legislations
- Weak enforcement
- Poor monitoring
- The paucity of funds
The problem of environmental pollution has acquired international dimension and India is no exception to it. Environment Law in India play a major role as without these laws the people are difficult to be controlled. If penalties are imposed it is easier to control the people from harming the environment which is otherwise not possible.
Article by – Shivam Shukla