RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     8th April 2024        

Context: Recently, in a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has extended the scope of Articles 14 and 21 to encompass the "right against the adverse effects of climate change."

Environment Protection under Constitutional Framework of India

  • Environment in Legislation: The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 defines environment inclusively, considering the interrelationships among water, air, land, human beings, and other living organisms.
  • Fundamental Duties Regarding Environmental Protection: The Indian Constitution's chapter on fundamental duties imposes the duty on citizens to protect the environment, emphasizing compassion for all living creatures.
  • Article 48: It  emphasizes the organization of agriculture and animal husbandry, with provisions for the preservation of breeds and prohibition of slaughter. 

oArticle 48-A stresses the state's duty to protect and improve the environment, safeguarding forests and wildlife.

  • Article 14: It implicitly imposes an obligation on the state to exercise fairness in its environmental protection measures.
  • Article 19 (1) (g): Any business or trade which is offensive to flora and fauna or human beings cannot be permitted to be carried on in the name of fundamental right.
  • Right to Life and Liberty: Article 21 safeguards life and personal liberty, evolving through liberal interpretations by the Supreme Court.

oInterpretations of Article 21 have broadened to include the right to a healthy environment, ensuring human dignity.

  • Recognition in Legal Precedent: Legal cases like Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State and M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India have recognized the right to a pollution-free environment as part of Article 21.
  • Impact of Public Interest Litigation: PIL empowered by Article 32 and 226 of the Indian constitution has sparked a significant wave of environmental litigation.
  • Article 51-A (g): It deals with Fundamental Duties of the citizens states: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”