When our constitution was drafted it did not contain any specific provisions on environment but there are certain provisions which to great extent had direct bearing on the environment such as improvement of public health, protection of natural monuments from spoliation, disfigurement etc. Article 47 of the Constitution is considered to be more important, because it imposes the primary duty on the State to provide public with improved health, raised level of nutrition and ultimately improved standard of living. Public health can be assured to the public only by offering the safe and protected environment to live in. This enabled the framers of our Constitution to be more conscious on the environmental concern. India is also one of the signatories of the Stockholm Declaration which is known as Magna Carta on human environment. Based upon the Stockholm conference, the Indian parliament passed the forty second amendment to the constitution in the year 1976 and incorporated specially two Articles relating to protection and improvement of environment where in the Constitution of India obligates the “State” as well as “Citizens” to “Protect and Improve” the environment. The division of legislative powers shows that, there are ample provisions to make laws dealing with environmental problems at the local level as well as at the national level. The right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution is basic human right and the concept of right to life and personal liberty have been transformed into positive rights by active judicial interpretation. A new era ushered in the post Maneka period the concept of right to life witnessed new developments and new dimensions were added to the interpretation of fundamental rights embodied in Article 21. Prior to this all the fundamental rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution were considered to negative in nature and imposing only negative obligation on the State. For the first time, thus Supreme Court transformed these rights into positive rights and imposed an affirmative duty on the State to enforce it. The disturbance of ecology and pollution of water, air and environment definitely affects the life of the person and thus involves the violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article-21 of the Constitution. Hygienic environment is an integral facet of right to healthy life and it would be impossible to live with human dignity without a human and healthy environment. The role of higher judiciary as is witnessed from majority of the cases decided by it has been worth appreciating. The Court has successfully done its job, fulfilled its obligation and performed its duty. Judiciary can and does play a role of catalyst and thereby speed up and gear up the process, but it has to be initiated by and from the public. There is an urgent need that citizens as well as the State must sit up and take notice of environmental degradation and take appropriate steps to improve it.
Dr. Ramesh Kumar,
JEMTEC School of Law,