Protection of Environment under the Indian Constitution

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Even before Indian independence in 1947, many environmental legislations existed however the important impetus for conveyance about a well-developed framework came solely when the world organisation Conference on the Human surroundings. Under the influence of this declaration, the National Council for Environmental Policy and designing at intervals the Department of Science and Technology was started in 1972. This Council later evolved into a full-fledged Ministry of surroundings and Forests in 1985 that today is that the apex administrative unit within the country for control and guaranteeing environmental protection.

When the national capital Conference, in 1976, Constitutional sanction was given to environmental considerations through the forty second change, that incorporated them into the Directive Principles of State Policy and elementary Rights and Duties. Since the Nineteen Seventies an in depth network of environmental legislation has mature within the country. The pollution management boards (CPCB Central Pollution Control Board and SPCBs State Pollution instrument panels) kind the restrictive and body core of the arena. A policy framework has additionally been developed to enrich the legislative provisions.

The Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution and therefore the National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on surroundings and Development were brought out by the MOEF in 1992, to develop and promote initiatives for the protection and improvement of the surroundings. The EAP (Environmental Action Program) was developed in 1993 with the target of rising environmental services and desegregation environmental concerns in to development programmes’. Other measures have additionally been taken by the govt to safeguard and preserve the surroundings. many sector-specific policies have evolved, which area unit mentioned at length. A constitutional right to environmental defendion will protect people from environmental hurt, however doesn’t essentially correlate to raised or stronger environmental protection. think about the samples of the u. s. and Asian nation.

Keywords: Environmental Law, Environmental Justice, Constitutional Law, Indian Constitution, US Constitution, India


Constitution of india has hugely mature and evolved over the years and is alleged to be one in all the foremost amended constitution to this point. within the Indian background, the standing of setting protection has not solely raised to the basic law of land however once an extended time in recent past it’s corresponded with rights and is currently accepted likewise established indisputable fact that it’s basic human right to each national of India [1] The fundamental duties enshrined n our constitution imposes duty on people to guard setting so as to produce every and each human clean setting and a life with dignity and harmony.

In our Constitution, it’s vividly expressed that Directive Principles of state policy area unit bent towards the concepts of state and healthy setting is alleged to be a vital ingredient for state. Article forty seven states that the State shall regard the raising of the extent of nutrition and {also the} commonplace of living of its folks and also the advance of public health which incorporates the protection and improvement of setting as a locality of its primary duties. Article 48-A of the constitution states that the state shall endeavour to guard and improve the setting and to safeguard the forests and wild lifetime of the country.

Part  III[2] guarantees elementary rights that area unit essential for the event of a private. Section 268[3] outlined what’s common nuisance. Abatement of common nuisance is additionally a subject matter of Section 133 to a 144 of I.P.C. These area unit solely preventative provisions. Sections 269 to 278 of the Indian legal code area unit penal provisions which implies that an individual guilty of violating any of the provisions is vulnerable to prosecution and social control. As presently because the national capital Conference all over, several Acts were initiated namely: life Act, 1972; Water Act, 1974; Air Act, 1981 etc. among 5 years of national capital Declaration, the Constitution of India was amended to incorporate Protection and Improvement of setting as constitutional mandate.

The protection and improvement of setting from time to time is currently a elementary duty beneath Constitution Act of 1976. Government of India has created a National Committee on Environmental designing and Coordination. Government of India’s program for setting enclosed the program for cleanup the rivers as well as Ganga and Yamuna. Prime Minister, Sh. Rajiv Gandhi ingrained Central Ganga Authority for the aim of pollution management of Ganga. The enactment of setting (Protection) Act, 1986 was the immediate outgrowth, of this program.

Indirect provisions regarding Environment Protection in the Indian Constitution

The constitution of Asian nation beneath Art-19(1) (a) read with Art-21,  the constitution guarantees right to smart setting and right to live peacefully.

In PA Jacob vs. The Superintendent of Police Kottayam[4], , the Kerala High Court command that freedom of speech beneath art-19 (1)(a) does not embrace freedom to use loud speakers or sound amplifiers. Thus, pollution caused by the loud speakers could also be controlled beneath article nineteen (1) (a) of the constitution. Article nineteen (1) (g) of the Indian constitution confers basic right every national to follow any business activities A national cannot continue endeavour, if it’s health hazards to the society or general public. Thus safeguards for setting protection square measure inherent throughout this. The Supreme Court, whereas deciding the matte Cooverjee B. Bharucha Vs Excise commissioner, Ajmerr[5] discovered that, if there is clash between environmental protection and right to freedom of trade and occupation, the courts got to be compelled to balance environmental interests with the fundamental rights to carry on any occupations.

42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976 and directives principle of state policy

Article 48A and 51 (A)(g) A global adaption consciousness for the protection of the environment at intervals the seventies prompted the Indian Government to enact the 42nd  modification (1976) to the Constitution. This added Art. 48A to the Directive Principles of State Policy. It Declares:- “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and lifetime of the country”.

A similar responsibility obligatory upon on every national at intervals the type of elementary Duty –Art. 51(A) (g) “to defend and improve the natural surroundings along side forest, lakes, rivers and life, and to possess compassion for living creatures”. The amendments in addition introduced positive changes at intervals the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. ‘Forest’ and ‘Wildlife’ were transferred from the State list to the synchronous List. This shows the priority of Indian parliamentarian to gift priority to surroundings protection by transportation it out the national agenda. Although unenforceable by a court, the Directive Principles unit additional and additional being cited by judges was a complementary to the fundamental rights.

The Directive principles below the Indian constitution directed towards ideals of building welfare state. Healthy atmosphere is additionally one in every of the weather of state. Article forty seven provides that the State shall regard the raising of the extent of nutrition and therefore the normal of living of its folks and therefore the advance of public health additionally includes the protection and improvement of atmosphere while not that public health can’t be assured. Article 48 deals with organization of agriculture and farming. It directs the State to require steps to organize agriculture and farming on fashionable and scientific lines. specifically, it ought to take steps for protective and rising the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and alternative milch and draught Bos taurus. Article 48A of the constitution says that “the state shall endeavor to safeguard and improve the atmosphere and to safeguard the forests and wild lifetime of the country”

In L.K Kollwal V State of Rajasthan[6], a simple legal instrument petition by voters of Jaipur compelled the municipal authorities to provide adequate sanitation. The court observes that after every national owes a constitutional duty to protect the environment (Art.51A), the national ought to be in addition entitled to enlist the court’s aid in imposing that duty against recalcitrant State agencies. The Court gave the administration six month to wash up the complete city, and discharged the plea of lack of funds and workers.

The Public Trust ism, evolved in M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath, states that positive common properties like rivers, forests, seashores and conjointly the air were command by Government in dominion for the free and unclogged use of the public. Granting lease to a court settled at the bank of the watercourse Beas would interfere with the natural flow of the water that the authorities had broken the final charitable trust ism. A matter regarding the conveyance pollution in metropolis city, at intervals the context of Art 47 and 48 of the Constitution came up for thought in M.C. Mehta vs. Union India[7](Vehicular Pollution Case). It had been command to be the duty of the govt. to determine that the air did not become contaminated due to conveyance pollution.

The Apex court all over again confirming the correct to healthy surroundings as a basic right specific that the correct to wash air in addition stemmed from Art twenty one that cited right to life. This case has served to be a heavy landmark as a results of that unleaded gasolene give was introduced in metropolis. There was a complete phasing out recent industrial vehicles quite 5 years recent as directed by the courts. metropolis owes its gift weather to the strive created to stay up clean air

History of Environment Laws in India

 The atmosphere Protection Act 1986 defines atmosphere as “environment includes water, air and land and therefore the inter-relationship that exists among and between water, air and land, and individuals, alternative living creatures, plants, small organism and property.” Besides the physical and biological side, the “environment” embraces the social, economic, cultural, religious and other aspects further.

The atmosphere, thus, is associate merger of assorted factors surroundings associate organism that act not solely with the organism however conjointly among themselves. It suggests that the aggregation of all the external conditions and influences moving life and development of organs of individuals, animals and plants. Policy and Laws in Ancient India: In the ancient Asian country, protection and cleansing from atmosphere was the essence of the sacred writing culture.

The conservation of the atmosphere shaped an infatuated article of religion, mirrored within the daily lives of the folks and conjointly enshrined in story traditional knowledge, art, culture and faith. In Hindu theology forests, trees and life protection command an area of special reference.

Policy and Laws in British Asian country BY AROUND 1860, kingdom had emerged because the world leader in deforestation, devastation its own woods and therefore the forest of entire, Republic of South Africa and north jap US to draw timber for construction, iron-smelting and farming. within the early 19th  century, the rule dispensed a fierce onslaught on the sub continent’s forests. The revenue orientation of the colonial land policy conjointly worked towards the speech act of forests.

The imperial forest department was shaped in1864, with the assistance of consultants from Germany, the country that was at the time the leading country in forest management. The primary inspector-general of forests, singer Brandish, had been a life scientist and recognise amazing task of checking the deforestation, formation legal mechanism to claim and safeguard states management over the forests. it absolutely was his twin sense that the railway accepted the crucial watershed with relation to the water management in India- the necessity was felt to begin associate acceptable department, and for its effective functioning legislation was needed to curtail the antecedently untouched access enjoyed by the agricultural communities.

Legislative Matters And setting Protection Since in Indian Constitution

There are 3 lists:

  • Union List
  • State List
  • Concurrent List

( List III) is shared between each the state and central government. It covers matters like protection of forests, wildlife, preserving mines, social control etc. however within the instance of conflict, the choice of the central government can supervene upon.

International setting Agreements

A surfeit of international agreements addressing environmental protection has been created and Republic of India has been a human thereto. as a result of at the national capital declaration in 1972, it had been command that the planet has one setting. Republic of India being a human to such international pacts is underneath AN obligation to translate those provisions and abide by them within the country.

This has been clearly explicit in Article 51(c) of the Indian constitution that state shall foster respect for law of nations and therefore the obligations of the treaties. On contrary to the present, the opposite essential provision dealing in protective the setting is Article 253 of the Constitution that sanctions the Parliament of our country to form laws which might be applicable to the full or any territory of the country for implementing any agreement or convention signed with the opposite country or countries. Parliament will additional enact to implement selections taken at any conference on a global level.

Any provision created within the context of environmental protection in accordance with Article 253 browse with articles thirteen and fourteen cannot be questioned before the court of law on the grounds of no legislative ability. With the utilization of this power, it’s quite important to understand that Parliament has enacted Air ( hindrance and management of Pollution) Act 1981, and setting Protection Act, 1986. it’s been clearly explicit within the Preamble of those acts that the aim of their enactment was to implement the selections taken at the world organization Conference on the Human setting, command at national capital within the year 1972.

In Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India[8] the Supreme court held that it’s essential to include the international customary laws within the municipal laws, provided they’re not contrary to them. It’s AN accepted principle of law. Thus, it had been thought-about essential to follow international laws by the domestic courts of law. Responsibility Of State For setting Protection Article forty seven puts AN obligation on the state that it shall stare upon the increasing level of nutrition and commonplace of living of its individuals. Also, the first duty of the state shall be to enhance public health. it’s the duty of the state to ban apart from healthful functions, the consumption of alcohol and medicines which might be injurious to the health of the living beings and cause an excellent threat to their lives.

In the case of Hamid Khan v. State of Madhya Pradesh[9], the state was negligent to produce water from the handpumps, large harm was caused to the voters, that affected their health massively. Hence, thanks to this gross negligence on the a part of the state, it had been command that the state didn’t perform its basic duty. In the year 1976, the constitution was amended. With this change, Article 48-A was inserted within the constitution with the aim to afford higher provisions thus on preserve and shield the setting.

Constitutional Provisions Right of life and setting protection (Article 21[10]): it provides for the elemental right of life.

In the case of Rural litigation and entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. State of Uttar Pradesh[11], wherever the petitioner beside the opposite voters wrote to the supreme court expressing their views against the progressive mining that bald the Mussoorie hills of trees and forests and eroding. This result in having AN adverse result on the setting and resulted in landslides beside blockage of underground water channels.

The written record was ordered by the court to contemplate this letter as a legal document filed underneath article thirty two of the Constitution. An skilled committee was appointed during this behalf by the Supreme Court to advise the Hon’ble court with some technical issue. On the idea of the report provided by the skilled committee, the court provided the stone quarries to be closed as a result of it had been infringing the proper to life and private liberty. Production operations result in ecological degradation and air and pollution, that affected the lives of the individuals to an excellent extent.

In L.K Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan and Ors[12] Court command that maintaining the standard of the setting, sanitation and health is roofed underneath the compass of Article twenty one of the Constitution. as a result of non-compliance to try to to thus will adversely have an effect on the lives of the many voters and slow poisoning beside reducing the lifetime of a national.

In urban center Medical Trust V. B.S Muddappa[13] an improvement theme was ready by the town Improvement Board of urban center for the aim of extending the town. A low-level park was to be developed that a vicinity was unbroken underneath this theme. however underneath the direction of the chief minister the world unbroken for the low-level park was to be reborn into the civic agreeableness web site wherever the hospital was to be made. As shortly because the construction began, the residents touched to the judicature. The petition touched to judicature. however in charm to the supreme court, the appellant contended that the ability to allot sites is totally a discretionary one and therefore the developing authority has the proper to permit the positioning for creating hospital instead of a park.

Judicial role in Environmental Protection

In function of the big selection of cases dealt by supreme court with respect to environmental protection, a embarrassment of judgements are passed that have set down varied principles to be taken care of before pampering in any activity which could cause a threat to the surroundings. Polluter Pays Principle The basic thought behind this principle is that “ if you create a large number, it becomes your duty to wash it up”. The defiler pays principle doesn’t lay stress on the ‘fault’ rather on the curative approach to repair the ecological injury caused by somebody or cluster of persons. This principle was for the primary time brought up within the year 1972 within the OECD Guiding Principles regarding International Economic Aspects of Environmental Policies.

Further, this principle was conjointly applied within the case of Vellore voters Welfare Forum v. Union of india.In M.C Mehta v. Union of india and Ors[14]( metropolis Tanneries Case), the defiler pays principle was applied wherever industries were directed to be settled and these industries were ordered to pay 25th  of the value of the land. The industries that didn’t pay the value of the land and didn’t fits the direction of the court were additional directed to be closed. The Hon’ble court once more repaired to.  

Precautionary Principle Principle 15of the Rio Declaration provides for the precautional principle. So as to guard the surroundings, it’s essential to use the precautional principle. This principle implies that wherever there’s an opportunity of nice threat or irreversible injury to the surroundings, lack of full scientific certainty can’t be taken as a reason of not supply the efficient strategies.

 In M.C Mehta v. Union, popularly called mausoleum Case, was another judgement of the court passed on the idea of the precautional principle. during this case, public interest proceedings was filed alleging the degradation of mausoleum thanks to environmental pollution.Court referred the case to the skilled committee to hunt technical on the matter. On the idea of the report of the committee. This monument may be a monument of international repute. The industries set within the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) were exploitation coke/coal because the industrial fuel, therefore emitting effluents.

It was control by the court that, the Taj except being a cultural heritage, is additionally AN business by itself and therefore, it absolutely was directed to all the industries operative in TTZ to use gas as a substitute for coke/coal as an industrial fuel and if they cannot be repaired to that for any reason, they need to stop functioning and that they might relocate themselves as per direction. The industries on the relocation in new areas were to be the incentives. The belief of trust rests on the principle that bound resources that area unit needed for fulfilling the fundamental amenities of life like air, water etc hold nice importance to the individuals at giant that it might be fully unreasonable to form these resources offered to the non-public possession.

In M.C Mehta v. Kamal Nath[15], 1997, the regime granted a lease of forest land to a non-public company having a stuff set at the bank of stream Beas, for industrial functions. The edifice management was intervening with the natural flow of the stream by block the natural spill channel of the stream. This was questioned before the court through public interest proceedings.

The court explained the scope of trust belief and ascertained that the belief rests on the first principle that bound resources like air, water, ocean and forests have nice importance to individuals and it might be unreasonable to form them subject to the non-public possession. property Development The term property development was for the primary time used at the cocoyoc declaration. thenceforth it received additional impetus through the national capital declaration wherever it absolutely was control that the planet has only one surroundings and therefore the man is each the creator and decompose of the surroundings.


 This article begins with birthing down stress on why environmental protection is critical, why did a requirement arise to guard the surroundings followed by the causes of ecological degradation within the introductory half. varied reasons are thought of to be a significant think about polluting the surroundings and moving the lives of the individuals and move a good threat to different living beings of the country.

In earlier times, the word “environment” wasn’t specifically mentioned within the Constitution and no specific provisions were set down within the Constitution to agitate the surroundings hazards and to manage the activities of the those who thereby were contributory an enormous half in degrading the standard of the environment within the name of workout their elementary rights. The constitution is that the supreme law of the land. Thus, inserting the clauses to specifically agitate the surroundings problems would convince be useful for the environment.

For Important Case Laws of Environmental Law, Click Here.

For more articles on Environmental Law, Click Here.

For law notes, Click Here.

[1]   Subhash kumar v. state of Bihar AIR 420, 1991 SCR (1) 5

[2] Constitution of india

[3] Indian penal code,1860

[4] AIR 1993 Ker 1

[5] (1954, SC 220)

[6] AIR 1988 Raj 2, 1987 (1) WLN 134

[7]  (1999) ILLJ 612 SC

[8] Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 2715

[9] AIR 1997 MP 191, 1997 (1) MPLJ 587

[10] Constitution of india.

[11] Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1985 SCR (3) 169

[12] L.K Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan and Ors AIR 1987(1) WLN 134

[13] 1991 AIR 1902, 1991 SCR (3) 102

[14] 1987 SCR (1) 819, AIR 1987 965

[15] (1997)1 SCC 388

Author Details: Surbhi Kumari (Student, Amity University Patna)

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