The Constitution of India under part III guarantees fundamental rights which are essential for the development of every individual and to which a person is inherently entitled by virtue of being human alone. Right to the environment is also a right without which development of individual and realisation of his or her full potential shall not be possible. Articles 21, 14 and 19 of this part have been used for environmental protection.
Article 21 of The Indian Constitution
According to Article 21 of the constitution, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. Article 21 has received a liberal interpretation from time to time after the decision of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, (AIR 1978 SC 597). Article 21 guarantees the fundamental right to life. Right to the environment, free of the danger of disease and infection is inherent in it. Right to the healthy environment is an important attribute of a right to live with human dignity.
The right to live in a healthy environment as part of Article 21 of the Constitution was first recognized in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State, AIR 1988 SC 2187 (Popularly known as Dehradun Quarrying Case). It is the first case of this kind in India, involving issues relating to the environment and ecological balance in which Supreme Court directed to stop the excavation (illegal mining) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (1987), the Supreme Court treated the right to live in pollution free environment as a part of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Local Village's where Panchayat system is Followed
At local and village level also, Panchayats have been empowered under the constitution to take measures such as soil conservation, water management, forestry and protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspect.
Supreme Court Judgement On Ganga Water Pollution
In the Ganga Water Pollution case , the owners of some tanneries near Kanpur were discharging their effluents from their factories in Ganga without setting up primary treatment plants. The Supreme Court held that the financial capacity of the tanneries should be considered as irrelevant while requiring them to establish primary treatment plants. The Court directed to stop the running of these tanneries and also not to let out trade effluents from the tanneries either directly or indirectly into the river Ganga without subjecting the trade effluents to a permanent process by setting up primary treatment plants as approved by the State Pollution Control Board.
Acts Passed for Protection of Environment
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 i s one of the major laws relevant to the environment as the first of its kind after the Stockholm Conference. It provides for ‘the prevention and control of wholesomeness of water, and also for establishing and conferring appropriate powers upon Pollution Control Board, established for the purpose of achieving the above-set purpose .
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 was enacted as a follow-up of the Stockholm Conference and was enacted for taking appropriate steps for preservation of natural resources of the earth, which among other things include preserving the air quality and control of air pollution. The Act contains a definition clause, which attempts to bring all aspects of air pollution, including noise, within its fold.
In 1986, following the catastrophe of Bhopal, the Parliament was roused to address every single environmental issue by enacting a special legislation viz, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Under this, the central government has the responsibility for deciding the standards for accident prevention and handling of hazardous waste, oversight of investigations and research on pollution issues, onsite inspections, the establishment of laboratories, and collection and dissemination of information. In this legislative effort, an attempt was also made to control the environmental pollution in a holistic manner instead of sectoral/piecemeal approach.
Environment protection is part of our cultural values and traditions. In Atharvaveda, it has been said that “Man’s paradise is on earth; this living world is the beloved place of all, It has the blessings of nature’s bounties, live in a lovely spirit”. Earth is our paradise and it is our duty to protect our paradise. The constitution of India embodies the framework of protection and preservation of nature without which life cannot be enjoyed. The knowledge of constitutional provisions regarding environment protection is need of the day to bring greater public participation, environmental awareness, environmental education and sensitize the people to preserve ecology and environment.
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