India is one of the biggest democracies of the world and also the first country to make provisions relating to inclusion of laws relating to environmental protection under the Indian constitution. The Indian Constitution had provisions relating to protection of the environment when it came into force in 1950 under articles 39,42,47,48,49. Later on the 42 constitutional amendment came into force in 1976 by which article 48 A and 51 A(g) were added which explicitly talked about environmental protection.
The inclusion of article 48 A and 51A(g) was a prograssive step which originated after the stockholm conference 1972. Environment Programme (UNEP) in December 1972 to coordinate global efforts to promote sustainability and safeguard the natural environment.
The roots of the Stockholm Conference lie in a 1968 proposal from Sweden that the UN hold an international conference to examine environmental problems and identify those that required international cooperation to solve.
The right to live in a pollution free environment is also included under amdid of article 21 of the Indian constitution due to which a lot of legislations came into force with an objective of providing a Clean and Healthy Environment to everyone.
Legislations Relating to Pollution Control in India
The development of any country depends upon sustainable use of resources by that country. The need to control pollution was very early understood and therefore several legislations were enacted for pollution control. The most prominent among them were:
1. The Factories act 1948
Chapter 3, section 13,14 and 15 of the factories put emphasis on health of labour, ventilation, dust and fumes. The act mainely sets the limit of exposure of humans to pollution.
2. The Mines act 1952
The act related to limiting air pollution in various mines. The scope of this act was limited to protection of peoples who work in the mines against polluted environment.
3. The air (Prevention and Control of Pollution)Act 1981
In 1981 an act was passed with the intention to protect the environment and control abatement of air pollution. By this act the objective of protecting the environment was fulfilled by setting up a board and assigning such powers and functions to the board which are necessary for protection of the environment.
4. The environment (Protection) act 1986
The sole objective of this act was implementation of various rules for protection of the environment, including air pollution. The notification regarding introduction of BS-6 vehicles in India came under this act.
Constitutional Right of Clean and Healthy Environment
Part 3 of the Indian Constitution in corporates fundamental right to clean and healthy environment under article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This right is protected by Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian constitution. Under article 32 and 226 of the Indian constitution a person can move to supreme court and high court respectively for infringement of his fundamental rights. Right to Clean and healthy environment is also a Fundamental rights which has been incorporated under article 21 through various judicial pronouncements.
If a person infringes any other person’s right to live in a clean and healthy environment he shall be liable to be punished.
Environmental Issues and Public Interest Litigation
PILs have played a major role in the evolution of environmental rights. Few landmark PILs on this issue are:
1. Taj Trapezium Case, Agra: M.C.Mehta v. UOI and Ors. W.P.(C) No.13381/1984
A writ petition was filed by M.C mehta, relating to the effect of pollution on Taj Mahal, Agra. The sources of pollution were industrial and chemical wastes.
It was held by the Hon’ble apex court that the main contributors to pollution were industries in the Taj Trapezium zone.
It was directed by the Hon’ble supreme court that green belt should be formed near Taj Mahal and Mahajan committee was formed to look into the progress of this work.
2. Delhi air pollution case: M.C.Mehta v. Union Of India and Ors, Writ Petition (civil) no.13029/1985.
In 1985 a writ petition was filed relating to air pollution in delhi. The inaction of the union of india and authorities under the government of delhi was challenged that highly toxic gases and smoke was allowed to pass in the air of delhi due to which the life of people was at high risk. The honourable high court directed the government to take urgent steps to minimise the pollution.
ROLE OF JUDICIARY IN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES
Judiciary has played a major role in formation and protection of various environmental policies. The question of whether the right to a clean and healthy environment is part of article 21 or not was examined in case of subhas kumar v. state of bihar in which it was held that this right is part of article 21.
It appears jus and properly twisted that although India was one of the first nations to implement law relating to environmental protection, the lack of awareness and insensitivity of peoples towards the environment contributed to ineffectiveness of the rules. Following suggestions can be used for proper implementation of environment protection laws in india:
1. Creating awareness among people about the effects of Polluted environment.
Awareness among people can create a huge effect on improper implementation of environment protection laws. Awareness can be created by educating people through films,documentaries,etc,.
2. Appointment of Environment protection officers.
Special officers can be appointed to look after environment protection. They will have power to arrest for violating laws relating to environment protection and shall be governed by a board of environmental control.
3. Giving fundamental rights to natural creatures like mountains, lakes, trees etc.
Natural creatures can be protected by giving them basic natural rights, countries like New Zealand have already done this by giving rights like “right to be clean to rivers” to natural creatures in the country.
To conclude it can be stated that a clean and healthy environment is one of the most important human rights available to everyone but the insensitivity of people towards nature has led to degradation of the environment and consequently degradation of health.
In countries like India, issues like Air pollution have been included under the ambit of serious problems like hunger and poverty.
A positive step should be taken like countries like New Zealand for implementation of Natural rights of Nature. And those infringing it should be punished by law.