Environmental Law and its Importance
Updated: Mar 14, 2021
The environment protection law was enacted in 1986 and it is applicable to the whole of India, including the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was called umbrella legislation. It fills the gaps in the earlier laws regarding the protection of environment law. It was the Bhopal gas tragedy which necessitated the government of India to make an advanced law on environmental legislation including rules regarding handling and storing and use of hazardous waste. On the basis of these rules, the parliament enacted the environment protection act, 1986. The objective of this act is to protect and improve the environment. Under this act, the ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) was assigned the overall responsibilities for administering the laws and policies in India.
Important Provision of Environment Protection Act, 1986 with important case laws:-
As per the Section 2(a) of the Environment Protection act, 1956, the definition of Environment is “Environment basically involves air, land and water, the interrelation exists between water, land, air and human beings and the other living organism plans, property and microorganism”. Environment and life are inter-connected, humans totally depend on earth’s natural resources such as air, water and land.
The definition of environment pollution given in section 2(b) of the environment protection, 1986 means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration or may be or tend to be injurious to the environment. Wrongful contaminations of the atmosphere or of water, or of soil, to the material injury of the right of an individual are the main reasons to cause Environment pollution.
Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 provides that penalty must be given in case of contravene the provision of this act as well as the order, rules and directions. Whoever fails to comply with the provision of this cat, shall be liable to punishment with imprisonment for a term of 5 years or a fine too.
Article 48A states that the state shall strive to improve and protect the environment. It will also provide safeguard to the wildlife and forest of the country.
Section 51 (A) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 states every citizen shall protect the environment.
Factors Responsible for causing pollution
Indiscrimination use of Science Technology
Current Modern agriculture Method
Poverty and lack of knowledge
Constitutional Provision of Environmental Protection:
As per the 42nd Constitutional Amendment 1976, two Provisions were made added to the Indian Constitution i.e. Article 51A and article 48A for the protection of Environment Law
Environment Protection and Fundamental Duties:
Article 51(A) (g) of the Indian Constitution states that it shall be the duty of every citizen to improve and protect the natural environment including forest, lakes, rives and wildlife. It is the fundamental duty of each and every citizen to improve and protect the natural assets such as gas, iron, air, water, wood, oil, coal and wind energy.
In case of Mc Mehta v/s Union of India (1998) 6 SCC 63, the Supreme Court of India held that under article 51(a) g of the Indian constitution, it is the duty of the central government to launch compulsory teaching for 1 hr in a week on environment protection to all the educational institution.
Damodar Rao v/s S.o Municipal Corporation, 1987:- the apex court held that polluting the environment amounts to violate the right to life under article 21 of the India constitution. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides the protection of right to life and liberty except the procedure established by law. So, right to life means rights to die, pollution free environment.
Shubhash kumarv/s Stae of Bihar:- the Apex court held that right to get pollution free water and air is our fundamental right guaranteed under article 21 of the Indian constitution.
Mincipilaty v/s Vardicharan:- the supreme court held that if the Pollution was created due to private pollution and hazardous town planning. In such cases he will be absolutely liable and it is the duty of the accused to stop the hazardous work at the time. Further, Supreme Court held that pollution free environment is an integral part of Article 21 of the Indian constitution
Environment and Directive Principle of State Policy:-
Article 48A of the Indian Constitution deals with the protection of ecology and protection of environment pollution. It says that the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment to and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country. AP Pollution control Boardv/s M.V Naidu, 1999:- In this case, significance of Precautionary was established. The Supreme Court observed that if environmental harm is anticipated then precautionary measures should be adopted to avoid it. In this case, the Supreme Court discussed the development of the precautionary principle.
Environment and Public Interest Litigation:
Article 32 of the Indian constitution clearly states that an aggrieved person can move to the Supreme Court for the violation of fundamental rights under article 32 of the Indian constitution pertaining to matters of environment protection. In case Sher Singh v/s state of H& P, 2014: the Supreme Court held that the state government is under the obligation to protect and improve the environment as per article 48A and article 51a of the Indian Constitution.
Public Interest Litigation would be maintainable before the High Court under Article 226 and before the Supreme Court under article 32 pertaining to matters of environment protection. In case of M.C Mehta v/s Union of India, the victim of gas leak got successful in claiming damages by the means of PIL.
State of W.B v/s Sujit Kr. Ratna, 2004:- the Supreme Court held that the provision of article 48a and article 51A (g) should be kept in mind while interpreting only statutory provision.
Environment Protection and Fundamental Right:
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
In the case of Menka Gandhi v/s Union of India:- The supreme court held that while highlighting the importance of the right to life under article 21 of the Indian Constitution, that right to life is not confined to mere animal existence but extends to the right to live with human dignity. It has been noted that the environment protection act 1986 was enacted under Article 253 o Indian Constitution.
International Convention for the protection of Environmental Law
As we know, environmental protection is an international concern. The United Nations has adopted so many conventions and protocols to protect the environment such as United nation Convention to combat desertification, Vienna convention, Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS) , Geneva convention, Montreal Protocols etc. The following Conventions are discussed as follows.
1. United nation Convention to combat desertification: - These conventions are mainly framed for those countries that are facing a problem of serious drought and desertification particularly in the African region. This convention is used to combat desertification and to eradicate the effects of droughts through the national action program.
It formulates the long term strategies which are highly supported by International Corporation and partnership arrangement. Here the terms desertification means convert the land into desert like areas. For e.g. Sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership and decentralization, address, arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid are known as dry land where the most vulnerable and ecosystem and people can be found.
2. Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS):- The conventions are located in (Rhine) Germany and this convention came into existence in 1983. The aim of that convention is to protect the marine, terrestrial and avian, migratory species throughout their range. Wildlife and habits are conservation, if the global are basically concerned by the intergovernmental treaties of the United Environment Programme (UEP).
3. Geneva Protocol: This protocol is used to prohibit the use of poisonous, asphyxiating, poisonous gases during the war time and also bacteriological methods of warfare. The treaty prohibits the use of biological and chemical weapons in International armed conflicts. Specific treaties like the 1993 Chemical Weapon convention (CWC) and the biological Weapon convention also covers it in exhaustive details.
4. Vienna Convention: - it came into force in the year 1988, this convention overall aims to protect the Ozone layer. It does not include the reduction goals for the use of CFC’s it is a main chemical agents causing ozone depletion. These are accompanying Montreal protocols
5. Montreal Protocol: - the Montreal protocol depletes the ozone layer (a protocol to the Vienna convention for the protection of Ozone layer) it is an international treaty designed to protect and improve the ozone layer by phasing out the production of manifold substances which are responsible for ozone depletion.
The Laws and awareness of the environment is widely assumed by today’s society. Though several acts, related to Environment Law have been enacted to the Indian Legislation but the Environment Protection Act, has been drafted in such away to cover all aspects and problems related to environment and therefore, it is said to be lucrative to understand the important aspects related to environment specifically.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986, Professional Bair Act, with short comments, 2010.
Prof. P. Leelakrishna Environment Law in India, 2018
Prof. Rai Kailash, Constitution of India.
Author - Sharal Sharma
Student at JECRC University, Jaipur, Rajasthan.