India still has an ancient tradition of looking into and paying close attention to the protection of the environment. There are plenty of writings, to show that in India every person had to practice the protection and worship of nature. In India, the rules for protecting the environment are noticeable and have their own uniqueness and can be easily recognized that it is from ancient times through traditions.
The environment has been defined as the exterior, physical and biological system in which human man and other organisms exist.
The term Environment has been derived from the term ‘environ’, which means to the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. According to humans, its surrounding has physical and biological importance. The physical environment includes Land, Water, and Air. The biological environment covers flora, fauna and other living as well as nonliving organisms.
Accordingly to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), 1986, the environment is defined in Sec 2 of EPA, 1986;
“Section 2(a) ‘environment’ includes water, air and land, and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism, and property;
In India a separate ministry viz. The Department of Environment was established in 1980 to ensure a pollution-free and healthy environment for the country.
What is Environmental Law?
Environmental law is an assemblage of laws, agreements, and regulations of common law that governs how humans interact with their surroundings. The main objective of environmental law is to protect the environment and create laws for demonstrating and provide guidelines for people on how people can use natural resources. Environmental laws not only aim to protect the environment, but they also determine who can use natural resources and on what terms and in what quantity. Laws regulate pollution, the use of natural resources, forest protection, mineral harvesting and keep count of animal populations.
Provision of Environmental Law In India
Apart from international laws and treaties, each and every country has enacted laws regarding environmental protection, keeping track of pollution control, etc. In India, there are various acts for environment protection and pollution control that lays down the protection of the environment is the duty of government.
The main acts to protect and safeguard environment are:-
a) The Prevention of Air and Water Pollution, 1974.
b) The Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
c) The Biodiversity Act, 2002
d) The Constitution of India, 1950
The Constitution and Environment
The Constitution of India is among the few in the other Constitution of the world that contains specific provisions and duties on environmental protection.
Laws made by the Centre, State and Municipality add to the rights, duties, and responsibilities that are part of the constitution and go hand in hand with the common law. These laws are also known as legislations, they must go along with the constitution. But the Government can amend the common law.
Art. 21 of the Constitution of India embody the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. It states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
The Constitution of India guarantees ‘Right to Equality’ under Art. 14 to all citizens without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex or place of birth. This implies that any action of the State relating to the environment must not infringe upon the right to equality.
The 42ñd amendment made in the Constitution of India in the year 1974 brings with it the responsibility of the State to protect and improvise the biodiversity and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of India. Later, in Part IV of the Constitution, it speaks about Fundamental Duties. Therefore it is the duty of each citizen of the State to abide by the rules and protect forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.
The Constitution in its Twelfth Schedule provides for guidelines for the town and village planning.
The issues which are related to the environment in the twelfth Schedule are as follows:
a) Urban planning including town planning regulation of land use water supply
b) public health and sanitation,
c) conservancy and solid waste management
d) urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects
e) provision of urban amenities such as park grounds
f) cremation grounds and electric crematoriums
g) prevention of cruelty to animals regulation slaughter-houses and tanneries.
As environmental laws gain ground, lawmakers looked into the issue of standing. Individuals have to no longer needed to be aggressive about biodiversity contamination.
The most important case to environmental law is
Narmada Bachao v/s Union of India
The issue before the court was whether the environmental clearance granted by the Central Government of India for the event of a dam had been granted without proper study reference and understanding of the environmental impact of the project and its damage to the environment. Furthermore, it had been examined whether the environmental conditions imposed by the Ministry of Environment had been violated and if so, what was the legal effect of the violations. The evidence disclosed that the govt had been deeply concerned with the environmental aspects of the project and since there was a difference of opinion between the Ministries of Water Resources and of the Environment and Forests the matter was addressed by the Prime Minister who gave the clearance. The court ordered compensatory measures for environmental protection in compliance with the scheme framed by the govt. and ordered the event to continue while the alleviate measures were administered.
The Supreme Court of India reacting to the public interest litigations has passed several judgments and a number of Orders against polluting industries numbering more than fifty thousand in the Ganga basin. As a result of these directions, many people are saved from the consequences of air and pollution in the Ganga basin covering 8 states in India.
In India, the priority for environmental protection has not only been raised to the status of organic law of the land, but it’s also wedded with human rights approach and it’s now well established that, it’s the necessity of time and right of each individual to measure in pollution free environment with full human dignity.
It is time that the overall public, public entities, state, and central government realize the damage, which our developmental process has made to the living environment.
For the success of the government laws concerning the environment, it’s essential to make a way of civic consciousness and public hygiene within the use of municipal services like roads, public places, drainage, etc. Strict enforcement of the provisions of law is also needed. Law may be a strong medium to compel the citizens to watch cleanliness and thereby to combat pollution. Environmental protection laws in India need a replacement.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is environmental law?
Environment law is a very broad area of the law that governs the statutes concerning the environment – including regulations and cleanup regarding hazardous or chemical materials and the consequences of individuals who violate environment statutes.
What sort of individual can bring an environmental law case to court?
Any sort of individual can bring a case to the court regarding environmental law – including if their property was damaged or if they have received bodily injury or damages from someone who is violating environmental law. Citizens can also bring a suit against companies or organizations that are violating environmental law.
Can an individual file suit against a company or organization if the government is actively pursuing the individual or has taken action against them in the past?
Typically, no. If the government or other individuals have already started processes to stop the company or organization from violating environmental law, an individual will usually not be allowed to file a suit.
Can an individual take a business or organization to court for damages of personal property under environment laws?
Yes and it has been done in the past. For instance, if a company or organization uses chemicals that travel to the individual’s property and cause damages or injuries – that individual can take that business or organization to court.