Fundamental right of environment
For the last few days, there has been a fire in the forest of Odisha, which makes us realize the importance of a good and healthy environment. For a healthy life, we need to take good care of our environment because the survival of human civilization depends on it. Human rights were brought into focus by the Second World War including the right to live with dignity, the right to live as a species, the right to livelihood, etc, but environmental rights were never a priority. With various jurisprudence, the judiciary has expanded the scope of article 21 by adding the right to a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right under the right to life.
The Preamble to the Indian Constitution states in its first account that India is a socialist country. This means that social problems are prioritized over personal problems. The primary goal of the preamble is socialism and it is the duty of the state to make the environment free from pollutants that cause atmospheric pollution. The duty of the state is not only to provide a pollution-free environment but to provide a decent standard of living. The purpose of an Indian citizen is not only to get freedom but also to get justice. Thus, citizens have the right to get environmental justice. As India is a democratic country, all citizens of India have the right to keep an eye on the work and policies of the state to restore the environment.
The obligation of the state:
The state must comply with laws and rules and regulations to benefit the citizens who have elected them. Under article 47, the state shall consider the increasing level of nutrition and living standard of citizens. The state shall look into proper public health. It is the duty of the state to impose a ban on alcohol and drugs which are harmful to health except for medical purposes.
Pollution is continuously increasing due to various reasons. For example, air pollution is increasing due to the release of smokestacks which are caused by burning fossil fuels, which further leads to imbalances in the eco-system. This led to a significant call for the state’s obligation to protect the environment.
In Hamid khan v. state of Madhya Pradesh, the state was negligent in providing water from hand pumps, causing extensive damage to citizens, which affected their health. It is said the state failed to perform its duty. In 1976, the Constitution was amended, enacting Article 48-A, which imposes a duty to improve the situation in the state and protect the forests and wildlife of the country.
The obligation of citizens:
The duties of the state and the rights of citizens are interlinked. While at the same time the citizens have the right to a pollution-free environment, it is the duty of the state to protect the environment and not to carry out any activity that causes harm to society and all living organisms at large. Citizens are very concerned about their rights and neglect their duties. The burden of environmental protection should be for the state as well as the citizens and for that amendment was bought Part IV-A was established by the Constitution (42) Amendment Act, 1972.
Part IV-A deals with fundamental duties. Under Article 51A (g), it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect the environment. In case the of Kinkeri Devi v. State, The Himachal Pradesh high court stated under Article 48A and Article 51A(g) that it is the duty of the state and citizens to not only protect but also improve the environmental condition of the country.
Right to life:
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives the fundamental right to life, which not only states to live with dignity, personal liberty, food, clothing, shelter, and water but also has a pollution-free environment. In which a person can live in a clean and safe environment where there is no danger to life. There must be no disease and no infection in a healthy environment. This is important because the right to life can only be attained by a clean, safe, and disease-free environment.
The Rajasthan High Court ruled in the case of the L.K Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan and ors, that maintaining a safe environment is provided under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. And failing to maintain a safe environment would eventually cut the lives of people.
Right to equality:
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution provides equality before the law and equal protection before the law. It imposes a duty on the state to be fair while taking action regarding environmental issues and the state cannot violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
In Bangalore Medical Trust v. B.S. Mudappa, a developing plan was prepared by the City Improvement Board of Bangalore, in which a low-level park was to be developed, but the Chief Minister of the state authorized the construction of a hospital instead of a park in that area. As soon as the construction started, the local people of that area went to the court and the court said that the open spaces, playgrounds, and protection of the eco-system are of vital importance to the public and the environment. Open spaces that are for public use cannot be sold to a private party or leased for pecuniary gains.
Freedom of speech and expression:
Article 19 (1) (a) of Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for the right to speech and expression. Many times, people have approached the court by using their right to speech and expression. People have expressed infringement of their right to a safe and clean environment in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. State of Uttar Pradesh.
Media plays a vital role in molding the viewpoint of citizens of India related to environmental issues. Thus, freedom of the press is also included in Article 14(1)(a) of part III of the Indian constitution.
Freedom of trade and commerce:
Under Article 19(1)(g), any person who is a citizen of India can practice any profession or business, trade, and commerce within the territory of India. But with some reasonable restrictions as stated under Article 19(6) of the Indian constitution. To avoid environmental hazards, Article 19 (6) of the Indian Constitution imposes appropriate restrictions. Thus, no person can harm the environment in the name of trade or business.
In the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1988 SC 1037 some factories released their waste material into the holy river Ganga, which causes water pollution. In which the court said to shut down their operations because the emission was ten times more toxic and harmful than sewage water which flows into a river. The honorable court also added, through the court is conscious of unemployment caused by the stoppage of factories, but life, health, and ecology hold more importance than unemployment in the eyes of the court.
In 1982, India faced its biggest disaster. But then India was not ready to face it because India did not have any special provision for protection or protection of the environment. In the last 39 years, India has adopted numerous principles like sustainable development, the Environment (Protection) Act, Right to Pollution-Free Environment which was brought under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. As time passed, India showed progress in upgrading its policies related to environmental protection.