The Indian Constitution is very unique and special. It was drafted by referring to the constitutions of many other nations. Since India is a multilingual and multi-religious country, and due care was taken to inculcate all the positive values and practices in the Constitution. With the signing of the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, India was a signatory to such international pacts and carried on many amendments in the Constitution to include many articles protecting the environment.
Important Constitutional provisions
Currently, the Indian Constitution recognises many direct and indirect provisions for the protection of the environment namely:
Article 14-Right to equality
Every citizen in India has a right to equality before the law and equal protection of the same. This right can also be affected when the government makes laws that have an adverse effect on the environment hence Article 14 in an indirect way protects the environment. It also casts a duty on the state governments to utilise their discretionary power without infringing the interests of the general public even in the area of the environment.
Article 19-Freedom of Speech and Expression
Every citizen of India has freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to it under Article 19. This is a wide article and is further subdivided into sub-articles.
Article 19 (1) (a) which expressly provides about the freedom of speech and expression-The media plays a very important role in moulding the views and opinions of people in matters concerning the environment. It can be interpreted to include freedom of the press.
Article 19 (1) (g)-Freedom of Trade and Commerce and Environmental Protection–
Every citizen in India has the freedom to choose, practice and profess the profession or business of their choice. But like all other fundamental rights, Article 19 is not absolute. It is subject to restrictions provided under Article 19 (6), one of these restrictions are regarding the environmental hazards. Cooverjee B. Bharucha V. Excise Commissioner, Supreme Court provided that environmental protection is superior to freedom of trade.
Article 21- Right to life
Article 21 is always considered a mini-constitution due to the number of rights it accommodates in itself. Right to life means a person has a right to a life with dignity and not a mere animal existence. This Article from time and again has been expanded by the SC. It can be stretched to include the right to live in an environment that is safe as this is a basic requirement of an individual. This Article also embodies the right to livelihood, this wider interpretation has proved to be beneficial in keeping a strict check on the conduct and actions of the government in the context of measures taken by the authorities to protect the environment.
This Article imposes a duty expressly on the State to improve the standard of living and provide a safe environment for an individual.
Article 48 A
This Article has been inserted via the 42nd amendment in the Constitution to the chapter of DPSP. Similar to Article 47, this Article casts a duty on the State to provide a safe environment and also safeguards the forests and wildlife of the country. This Article imposes a duty on the State to protect the environment from pollution by adopting various measures. It widens the State’s duty to accommodate the wildlife and forests also since they are also the inhabitants of the area and are to be provided protection.
Article 51 A (g)
Fundamental duty is a chapter that was added after the 42nd amendment. For rights to be enforceable, it is compulsory that a duty is cast upon the citizens. Article 51 A (g) casts a duty on every citizen of India to secure and improve the common habitat which incorporates forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife and to have compassion for living animals.
Kinkeri Devi v. State- In this case, the Himachal Pradesh HC stated that in Article 48-A and Article 51-A (g), it was held that it is both a constitutional pointer to the state and the constitutional duty of the citizens to not only protect the environment but to also improve it and to preserve and safeguard the forests, the flora and fauna, the rivers and the lakes and all other water resources of the country. The carelessness to comply with the obligation isn’t anything less than treachery against the supreme law of the land. On account of betrayal, the courts can’t stay a silent spectator. A court can intercede anytime to make the execution of the provisions by issuing Writs, Orders as it might suspect necessary and vital.
This Article empowers the Parliament to make laws for the entire country or any part of the same in furtherance of any international treaty, convention and agreement to which it is a signatory. India is a signatory of the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, hence the Parliament enacted various laws for the protection of the environment like the Wildlife Act 1972, Water Act 1974, Air Act 1981, and also the Environmental Protection Act 1984.
Protection of the environment has always been a concept recognised and practised by Indians from immemorial time. But with changing times, these practices were dying a gradual death. Hence the same had to be included expressly in the Constitution to make them legally liable and stop them from dying. We have no substitute for Earth hence all the people have to make efforts to protect and preserve our mother earth.