By Kunal Basu:
The right to a healthy and clean environment is perhaps, one of the most important and basic fundamental rights guaranteed to all individuals under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
As per the Apex Court ruling in “Ramdeo Chauhan vs. Bani Kant Das” (2011), it is now a law whereby, if a person is denied a basic civil-cum-human right made available to him under existing law, the same act amounts to a strict violation of his fundamental rights.
Other noteworthy rulings by our judiciary include the “M.C. Mehta”(1988-onwards) list of cases. Also the “Rural Litigation Kendra vs. the State of UP”(1989) ruling, which attempted to balance environmental interests equitably with the interests of the displaced workers whose jobs were adversely affected by the Court’s ruling.
What is the relevance of these cases? I have cited them for two reasons.
1) We, as citizens of India, have a fundamental right to live in a clean environment and are being denied so, by the Indian Govt.
2) The piece is written with an intent to expose the abominable and apathetic behaviour displayed by the ruling government towards protecting the environment.
The black letter of the statute law on environmental protection is fixed. There is no dark matter theory involved in interpreting the law’s inner recesses. Our very own Environmental Protection Act (1986) on the subject is an umbrella legislation in itself. So is the legal rule of ‘inter’ vis-à-vis ‘intra’ generational equity that indirectly stresses on citizen participation in protecting the environment.
If we want our environment to be preserved in all its pristine form for posterity’s sake and sustainable usage, we must first get our administrative machinery to implement what it has failed to do all these years.
What good is an elected government that fails to uphold the promise of a clean environment stated indirectly in our Constitution through Article 21?
Look at the river Ganga. Despite the judiciary having constantly ruled that this holy water body be made free of all forms of filth and dirt as a result of people throwing litter at all times into it, the executive authorities have yet to abide by the Court and the National Green Tribunal’s ruling. Even today, there are incidents of stray plastic water bottles, glass pieces and garbage, to name a few, that are lying in and around the Ganga river.
As a result of this sheer callousness, occurrence of water pollution is at an all-time high despite the 1974 Water Act stating the objective of the law to the contrary. What purpose does the NGT and various wordy court rulings on the preservation of the environment serve, if the contemporary core problem of environmental degradation remains unaddressed?
Is the Government so thickheaded, so as to ignore the alarming signs displayed by the environment’s gradual decadence? Is politics and the desire for stability of an overarching importance nature, as compared to the needs of an electorate people?
What is the use of an existing Constitution, and the fundamental rights in them, if the implementation machinery needed to realise both of them is, in itself, and insistent on taking a lackadaisical stand on the grounds of not having the necessary monetary funds needed to remedy this problematic issue? Where is the maturity in being hell bent on recklessly destroying our rivers?
An alarming report published by the International Journal of Environment Science & Technology (IJEST) has stated that water pollution has risen to such a dangerous levels that even imported technology from developed countries has failed to check it. Instead of waking up from a blissful ignorant slumber, the government of the day seems far more interested in focusing on political issues of a really nugatory nature.
The day India can have a relatively cleaner environment, we can all stand up and proclaim unhesitatingly that the constitutional process of enjoying life in a healthy and safe environment has been fully implemented for the benefit of the people, instead of living in a fantasy world, much like we are living in the present. Much in the same way in which the will and constant persistence of the people went in creating the 2005 RTI Act.