“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”
– Lady Bird Johnson
Environment, Law, and Humans — a trilogy exists in the society.
The environment consists of every component of the nature that facilitates human lives to survive and grow. Human resources are vital to convert all the other existing resources (minerals, wind, water, etc.) into usable forms for living beings. Laws are formed to ensure that there is no misuse of the environment and the balance between humans and nature is not broken.
Environmental Laws are the amalgamation of all the state and center statutes, regulations, and common law principles concerning the protection of the environment, steps taken to reverse the climate change and achieve a zero-carbon economy.
“Command and Control” are the two categories in which the environmental laws fall into. Majorly, these laws have three elements
Some of the important legislations are The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 The Environment Protection Act, 1986 The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”
According to the interpretation of Article 21 by the Supreme Court in Chhetriya Pardushan Mukti Sangharsh Samiti v. State of UP (1990) 4 SCC 449, it was held that every citizen has a fundamental right to the enjoyment of quality life. In the matter of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1963 SC 1295, the Supreme Court quoted and held that: By the term “life” as used in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution something more is meant than mere animal existence.
In Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration AIR 1978 SC 1675, the same court reiterated with the approval of the above observations and held that the “Right to Life” included the right to lead a healthy life to enjoy all faculties of the human body in their prime conditions. It would even include the right to protection of a person’s tradition, culture, heritage, and all that gives meaning to a man’s life. It includes the right to live in peace, to sleep in peace, and the right to repose and health.
For a human being to survive as mentioned in Article 21, there must exist a clean and healthy environment. The following are some of the well-known cases on the environment under Article 21:
In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1988) AIR 1988 SC 1037: (1987) 4 SCC 463, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of tanneries that were polluting the water.
In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1997) AIR 1997 SC 734: (1997) 2 SCC 353, the same Court issued several guidelines and directions for the protection of the Taj Mahal, an ancient monument, from environmental degradation.
In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 2721: (1996) 5 SCC 647, the Court took cognizance of the environmental problems being caused by tanneries that were polluting the water resources, rivers, canals, underground water, and agricultural land. The Court issued several directions to deal with the problem.
In Milk Men Colony Vikas Samiti v. the State Of Rajasthan(2007) 2 SCC 413, the Supreme Court held that the “Right to Life” means clean surroundings which leads to a healthy body and mind. It includes the right to freedom from stray cattle and animals in urban areas.
This proves that the pillars of the democracy have played their role, and now, it’s time for the Indian citizens to follow the policy formed, execute their duties, and facilitate to preserve and enhance the natural environment that one person is surrounded by.
It’s the duty of all to take up the initiative and put forward their best foot for the bright and healthy future for generations to come. Laws are of no use until the citizens follow them. Proper execution meets the purpose of drafting the policy and regulations.