“Industrialise or Perish” is a universally acknowledged slogan which has become the seed for environmental contamination. Environmental protection is thus the need of the hour. The Indian constitution explicitly endorses environmental protection. The designers of the constitution through Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy intimate the citizens of India to secure and improve the environment. This… Read More »

“Industrialise or Perish” is a universally acknowledged slogan which has become the seed for environmental contamination. Environmental protection is thus the need of the hour. The Indian constitution explicitly endorses environmental protection. The designers of the constitution through Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy intimate the citizens of India to secure and improve the environment. This article sheds a light on the various provisions in...

“Industrialise or Perish” is a universally acknowledged slogan which has become the seed for environmental contamination. Environmental protection is thus the need of the hour. The Indian constitution explicitly endorses environmental protection. The designers of the constitution through Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy intimate the citizens of India to secure and improve the environment.

This article sheds a light on the various provisions in the Constitution of India that propagate environmental protection and safeguard people’s right to a clean and healthy environment

I. Introduction

The primary causes for environmental pollution are industrialization, urbanization, over abuse of assets, exhaustion of conventional assets and furthermore, the overpopulation.

India has taken several potential measures focusing on sustainable development but neither the law nor the environment is static. The environment is changing at a quicker pace and to adjust the frequency between the degradation and protection, the laws must be altered oftentimes to address these difficulties or it must be provided new guidance by the judicial interpretation.

Nations have made powerful environmental offices, arranged multilateral arrangements and embraced new activities at the local, national and international levels to secure human wellbeing, limit greenhouse gas emissions, conserve the biodiversity and wildlife and oversee natural resources.

II. Indirect Provisions

Right to Equality and Environmental Protection (Art 14): Equality before the law and equal protection of the law has been conceded under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This essential right implicitly gives an obligation to the state to be reasonable while undertaking activities related to environmental protection and accordingly, can’t infringe Article 14.

In instances of activity of arbitrary powers for the state authorities, the judiciary has assumed a strict part in denying the arbitrary approval. Utilization of discretionary powers without estimating the interest of the general public disregards the major right of equality of the people.[1]

Freedom of Speech and Expression and Environment (Art 19(1)(a)): Right to speech and expression is a crucial right explicitly referenced in article 19(1)(a) of Part III of the Constitution. There have been various situations where individuals have moved to court through the method of speech and communicating by writing letters like that on account of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. Territory of Uttar Pradesh where they have expressed the infringement of their right to have a clean and safe environment and a right to livelihood.

In PA Jacob vs The Superintendent of Police Kottayam[2], the Kerala High Court held that the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1)(a) does exclude opportunities to utilize loudspeakers or sound enhancers. In this manner, noise pollution brought about by loudspeakers can be controlled under Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.[3]

In India, the media has been playing a crucial role in moulding the perception of people in issues relating to the environment. Thus, Article 19(1)(a) is interpreted to include the freedom of the press as well.[4]

Freedom of Trade and Commerce and Environmental Protection (Art 19 (1)(g)): All the citizens of India have a basic right to continue any profession or business, exchange or trade at any spot inside the territory of India under Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution. Be that as it may, this isn’t an absolute right and accordingly, has sensible limitations to it. Article 19(6) of the Constitution sets out the sensible limitation to this major right to avoid environmental hazards.

The object is to maintain a strategic distance from the ecological imbalance and degradation of the atmosphere for the sake of carrying on an exchange, business, occupation or continuing any profession. In this way, for the sake of business or profession, one can’t harm the environment.

In M.C Mehta v. Union of India[5], the court held that certain tanneries were discharging effluents in the holy river Ganga which was causing water pollution. Further, no primary treatment plant was being set up despite the constant reminders. It was held by the court to stop the tanneries from working because the effluents drained were ten times more noxious as compared to the ordinary sewage water which flows into the river.

The Supreme Court, while deciding the matter relating to carrying on the trade of liquor in Cooverjee B. Bharucha Vs Excise commissioner, Ajmer[6] observed that, if there is a clash between environmental protection and right to freedom of trade and occupation, the courts have to balance environmental interests with the fundamental rights to carry on any occupations.

Right to life and Environment Protection (Art 21): Article 21 of the constitution accommodates the fundamental right to life. It expresses that no individual will be denied his/her right to life or individual freedom aside from the procedure established by law. The words “except in accordance with procedures established by law” can be interpreted to imply that this provision is subjected to exception upon special cases and is regulated by law which shifts from case to case.

Right to life incorporates the right to have a dignified life and likewise the minimum essentials of life like food, shelter, clean water and clothes. The right to live stretches out to having a good and clean environment wherein people can live securely with no danger to their lives. An environment shall be liberated from illnesses and a wide range of diseases.

In L.K Koolwal v. Rajasthan and Ors[7], the Rajasthan High Court held that maintaining the quality of the environment, sanitation and wellbeing is secured under the domain of Article 21 of the Constitution. Non-compliance can adversely influence the lives of numerous citizens and cause slow poisoning alongside decreasing the life of a citizen.

In Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India[8], it was held that the duty of the state is to take adequate and effective steps for the enforcement and protection of Constitutional rights guaranteed under Article 21, 48-A and 51-A(g).

The wider interpretation of this article has ended up being helpful in keeping a strict check on the conduct and activities of the legislature with regards to the steps taken by the authorities to protect the environment. It is likewise valuable to keep a record of the exercises of the state which can massively affect the environment, wellbeing of the people and endanger the livelihood of poor people.

III. International Obligations

Plenty of international agreements managing environmental protection have been made and India has been a signatory to them. Since at the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, it was held that the world has one environment, India being a signatory to such international agreements is under a commitment to translate those provisions and follow them in the nation.

The above has been clearly expressed in Article 51(c) of the Indian constitution. The state is mandated to cultivate regard for international law and the obligations of the treaties.

Another fundamental provision managing in ensuring the environment is Article 253 of the Constitution which enables the Parliament of our nation to make laws which can be applicable to the entire or any territory of the country for executing any agreement or convention signed with the other nation or nations.

Parliament can further legislate to implement decisions taken at any conference on an international level. Any provision made with regards to environmental protection as per Article 253 read with Articles 13 and 14 can’t be questioned before the court of law on the grounds of no legislative competence.

With the use of this power, it is pertinent to know that Parliament has enacted Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, and Environment Protection Act, 1986. It has been clearly stated in the Preamble of these acts that the purpose of their enactment was to implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held at Stockholm in 1972.

In Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India[9], the Supreme Court held that it is essential to incorporate the international customary laws in the municipal laws, provided they are not contrary to them. It is an accepted principle of law. Thus, it was considered essential to follow international laws by the domestic courts of law.

IV. Directive Principles of State Policy And 42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976

The Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act 1976 expressly consolidated environmental protection and improvement as a component of State strategy through the addition of Article 48A. Article 51A (g) placed a similar obligation on each citizen:

“To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures.”

The obligation of citizens and environmental protection: The obligations of the state in securing the environment are fundamentally the rights of the citizens. The idea of rights and obligations individually, coincide. They are interconnected.

In the event that citizens reserve the option to a decent standard of living and a contamination-free environment, at that point simultaneously, they are obliged to secure it and not carry on the exercises which end up being hazardous for living beings and the general public at large.

The idea of rights was very common in comparison with the idea of obligations prior to the 42nd amendment of the constitution. More significance was connected to rights than obligations by the supreme law of the land. Yet, the drafters of the constitution felt that it is important to bear the burden of securing the environment between both the state and the citizens. Likewise, citizens were more worried about their rights and began ignoring their obligations. Along these lines, part IV–A was embedded by The Constitution (Forty Second) Amendment Act,1976.

Part IV-A of the constitution manages Fundamental Duties. Article 51-A(g) explicitly manages the central obligation of the citizens to secure and improve the common habitat which incorporates forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife and to have compassion for living animals. Just like the obligation of the state, it is the obligation of the multitude of citizens to secure the environment as well as take measures which are sufficiently satisfactory to improve the environment.

Nature has gifted us with resources and a contamination-free environment and accordingly, this gives us occasion as citizens to feel an obligation to save these assets for our future generations. Henceforth, the standard of intergenerational value assumes a significant part in environmental protection by the maintainable utilization of characteristic assets.[10]

In the Kinkeri Devi v. State[11]case, the Himachal High Court stated that in Article 48-A and Article 51-A(g), it was held that it is both constitutional pointer to the state and the constitutional duty of the citizens to not only protect the environment but to also improve it and to preserve and safeguard the forests, the flora and fauna, the rivers and the lakes and all other water resources of the country.

The carelessness to comply with the pointer or to perform the obligation isn’t anything less than treachery against the supreme law of the land. On account of betrayal, the courts can’t stay a silent spectator. A court can intercede whenever to make the execution of the provisions by giving writs, Orders and directions as it might suspect necessary and vital.

In L.K Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan and Ors[12], the municipality of Jaipur was negligent in carrying on its basic duty of maintaining the hygiene of the state. This caused acute sanitation problems thereby leading to hazardous effects on the lives of the people of the state. Mr Koolwal along with other residents moved an application under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution before the High Court highlighting the gross negligence of the municipality.

While interpreting the genuine extent of Article 51-A for this situation, the court clarified that this article isn’t just an obligation but is a right made for the citizens to have the locus standing to move to the court and to carry out a check on the state exercises in case the authorities are not performing their obligations as per the basic law of the land. The right to move to the court is conceded to citizens for the correct implementation of the state’s obligations and of their departments, local bodies and so on.

Being careless in keeping up cleanliness and sanitation standards gradually impacts the day to day routines of vulnerable creatures and releases toxins into the environment at large. This encroaches on the key right to life of the citizens as given under Article 21, which likewise ensures that citizens have a decent standard of living and a clean and safe environment.

Along the above lines, citizens protecting their fundamental right to life from being infringed is very much justified. Accordingly, the court guided the municipality to eliminate the soil and all the dingy material that was posing a threat to the lives and the health of the individuals.

V. Conclusion

It tends to be effortlessly found from previously mentioned cases that despite the fact that the current realities and conditions of the multitude of cases are unique, the hidden standard in all the cases is still the same. For example, the protection and conservation of the environment.

At first, the Indian Government adopted an extremely lackadaisical attitude towards the protection of the environment, by excluding any lawfully enforceable standards in the Constitution of India. Notwithstanding, with the progression of time, the State understood its blunders and in this manner, began putting forth conscious efforts in securing the environment and in creating it too. The development was slow but it occurred in due time.

As it is said – better late than never.


References

[1]“Constitutional provisions for the protection of environment with relevant case laws”, Available Here

[2] AIR 1993 Ker 1

[3]Pooja P. Vardhan, Environmental protection under constitution of India, Available Here

[4]AdvRudra, Environmental law and constitutional protection, Available Here

[5] AIR 1988 SC 1037

[6] 1954, SC 220

[7] AIR 1988 Raj 2

[8] 1990 AIR 1480

[9] 28 August 1996

[10]Subodh Asthana, Constitutional Provisions for Environmental Protection in India, Available Here

[11] AIR 1988 HP 4

[12] AIR 1988 Raj 2


  1. Environmental Laws – Notes, Case Laws And Study Material
  2. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
Updated On 8 Nov 2020 11:27 AM GMT
M. Preetha

M. Preetha

Student: Saveetha School of Law

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