Constitutional and Judicial Safeguards for Environmental Protection

Constitutional and Judicial Safeguards for Environmental Protection

Question: Environmental protection is one of the biggest concerns in current times. Discuss the constitutional and judicial safeguards for environmental protection.

Indian Constitution guarantees liberty, equality and justice to all citizens of the nation
• A21 received a new dimension with the Maneka Gandhi case wherein right to live with human dignity was emphasised. Subsequent judgements (Francis Corale Vs. Union Territory of Delhi) said right to live also included right to pollution free air and water

• A48 of the DPSP requires the State to take steps to oversee agriculture and animal husbandry on modern lines that are scientific

• A48a makes provisions for the State to take steps to protect as well as improve the environment and safeguard wildlife and forests in the country

• Article 51A states that every citizen of India should work to improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, wildlife and rivers and protect these as well.

• Subjects related to environment in the seventh schedule of the Constitution are as follows

- Union List: Industries, Regulation and development of oil fields and mineral oil resources, Regulation of mines and mineral development, Regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys, Fishing and fisheries beyond territorial waters.

- State List: Public health and sanitation, Agriculture, protection against pest and prevention of plant diseases, Land, colonisation, Fisheries, Regulation of mines and mineral development subject to the provisions of List-I, Industries subject to the provisions of List-I.

- Common or Concurrent List: Forests, Protection of wild animals and birds, Economic and social planning, Population control and family planning

• In the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution, following duties for Panchayats related to environment have been included:

- Agriculture, including agricultural extension.
- Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation.
- Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development.
- Animal husbandry, dairy and poultry.
- Fisheries.
- Social and farm forestry.
- Minor forest produce.
- Rural housing.
- Drinking water.
- Fuel and fodder.
- Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways
- Non-Conventional, renewable energy sources.
- Health and sanitation
- Maintenance of community assets.

• The following are provisions related to the 12th Schedule which cover the duties of Municipalities in urban areas with respect to the environment:

- Urban planning including town planning.
- Regulation of land-use and construction of buildings.
- Water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial and solid waste management,
- Public health, sanitation and solid waste management.
- Urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects.
- Slum upgradation.
- Provision of urban amenities and facilities
- Prevention of cruelty to animals and regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries.

Judicial Safeguards

• SC and HC have power to issue directions or writs to protect the environment

• Across the years, the SC has paid special attention to environmental protection through the invocation of A32

• This includes landmark judgements on release of hazardous gases from industries, pollution of Indian rivers, illegal mining and much more

• National Green Tribunal was formed in 2010 for effective disposal of cases pertaining to ecological protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources; this includes enforcement of legal rights pertaining to the environment and providing relief and compensation for persons and properties pertaining to this

• NGT is guided by principles of natural justice and its headquarters are in New Delhi

• Other places where this Tribunal sits include Bhopal, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata

• Protection of environment is included in the constitution since the 42nd AA of 1977 which empowers the government to protect and improve the environment for the good of society as a whole

Facts and Stats

• Numerous legislations have been passed for environmental protection including the following:

- Biodiversity Conservation Act,
- Environment Protection Act,
- Wildlife Preservation Act,
- Water Pollution Prevention Act,
- Air Pollution Prevention Act

• There are around 200 Central and State Legislation on environmental protection
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