Today environment protection is evolved as an important subject in India with increase in Industrialization and human needs. Protection of environment basic means to protect natural environment by government, organizations, and individuals and to conserve natural resources. It is also a part of our culture and traditions to protect the environment like in India, citizens treat river Ganga as Maa Ganga which is depicted as a goddess. There was a famous Chipko Movement which started by local women against deforestation project by hugged with trees as a form of protest because they considered nature as god and worth protecting so religion play an important role.
And our constitution of India also provides various provisions for the protection of the environment. But to preserve and protect the environment it is also very necessary to bring greater public participation, environment awareness and education.
At the time when the Constitution was enacted, there was no specific provision, act or article that deals with the protection of environment law. Only in the preamble of the Constitution, it is mentioned that India is a Socialist Country. So, the State pays more attention to Social problems in comparison to individual provisions. And because of rapid Industrialization, Environment pollution came as major problem which was considered as a social problem so the duty came on State by the Preamble to provide standard of living in a pollution-free environment. After some year Preamble again interpreted as it deals with the security of citizens by providing justice. And Justice also include Environment Justice. Then after the Stockholm Conference held globally for the protection of Environment increased the awareness among various countries toward environment. Then the Indian government introduced various Acts such as the Wildlife Act 1972, Water Act 1974, Air Act 1981 etc. And after five years the Constitution of India was amended by 42nd amendment in 1976 which include provisions for environment directly under Fundamental Duties which was Article 51A and Directive Principle of State Policy which was Article 48A. But it was not enough because after all, India observed various man-made disasters. One of them was Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984. Then the government organised the National Committee for environmental planning and various programmes like cleaning of rivers including Ganga and Yamuna. And finally, in 1986 government enacted the Environment Protection Act. And side by side by Judicial Activism, Judiciaryalso interpreted various Fundamental Rights in terms of environment protection like Article 14, 15, 21.
Constitutional Provisions for the Protection of Environment and Landmark Cases
There are various constitutional provisions which give power and rights to citizens for the protection of environment such as: –
Article 48A– it comes under the Directive Principle of State Policy. It says that “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. This article imposed duty on State to protect the environment from pollution by adopting various measures.
Article 51A(g)- It 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 creatures” . This article is similar to Article 48A, only difference is it is the fundamental duty of citizens whereas Article 48A is the duty of the State to protect environment. This article says that we get a pollution-free environment from nature so it is our duty to not only protect the environment from pollution but also improve its quality. In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, Supreme court stated under Article 51A(g) to provide compulsory teaching lessons for one hour in a week on environment in all educational institutions.
Article 253– This article give power to Parliament to create law for the country or any part of the territory for implementing any conventions, treaty, and agreement with other countries. By this article Parliament enacted various laws for the protection of environment like Wildlife Act 1972, Water Act 1974, Air Act 1981, the Environmental Protection Act 1984.
Article 246– This Article divides the subjects of legislation between Union and State. It also provides Concurrent list in which both State and Union make laws by sharing jurisdiction which includes forests, protection of wildlife, mines and minerals development. So, both State and Union have power to make laws for protecting the environment. It also provides extra power to Parliament to make laws in State list for the national interest and by this Water Act of 1974 enacted by the parliament.
Article 47– imposed duty on the State to improve the standard of living of citizens by providing health facilities, sanitation, proper nutrition and protect the environment to live safely. And it also wants from citizens to be more conscious of the environment.
Article 21– It states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” This Article interpreted in various cases by judiciary for protection of the environment. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, Supreme court stated that the right to life not only for animals but it also provides the right to humans to live in a safe environment with basic human dignities. Because of the environment is not safe then it effects on our life directly. In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, Supreme court stated that the right to live includes living in a pollution-free environment. And it is also free from diseases.
Article 19(1)(g)- It states that it is the fundamental right of citizens to practise any profession or to carry any occupation, trade, business in any part of the country with some reasonable restrictions. In Cooverjee B. Bharucha V. Excise commissioner, Supreme court provide upper hand to environment protection in comparison to freedom of trade. So, the citizen cannot practice such trade or business activities if it is hazardous to health of public.
Article 32 & 226– These articles provide right to citizen to approach to Supreme or High Court whenever there is violation of fundamental right by PIL (Public Interest Litigation). By these various cases filed for the protection of the environment through PIL such as M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. the State of UP, in which court stated to preserve the environment and maintain ecological balance is not only the duty of government but it is also the responsibility of citizens of India according to Article 51A(g).
In our Constitution, there are various provisions, Acts for the protection of the environment. But after this, our India faces high percentage of environment degradation. Today our India deal with various problems like pollution, global warming, ozone depletion, scarcity of proper water, food and health facilities. There were various environmental disasters like Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Ganga Pollution Case. There is no strict implementation of laws regarding environment protection. Most of the Indians are not educated to preserve the environment. So, there is an emergency need to protect the environment otherwise we human destroy ourselves by our own hand. This can be done by implementing laws with strict punishment, by planting trees, promoting green energy, raising awareness toward environment welfare.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the new Schemes recently introduced by the Government?
There are various schemes introduced by the government for environmental protection such as:
(1) Namami Gange Programme
(2) Green Skill Development Programme
(3) Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
(4) New Mass Movement
What is meant by Green Energy?
The energy come from the natural sources such as sunlight, rain, wind, plants. These are renewable sources of energy which reduces our dependence on coal, natural gas and oil.