Judicial Response to Environmental Issues in India
“No one can tell what the law is until the courts decide it. The judges do everyday though it is almost hearsay to say so, if the truth is recognized then we may hope to escape from the dead hand of the past and consciously mould new principles to meet the needs of the present.” C.J. Hamson
Environmental protection during the last few years has become not only a matter of national concern but of global importance. It is now an established truth beyond all doubts that without a clean environment the very survival of mankind is at stake. Decline in environmental quality has been evidenced by increasing pollution, loss of vegetal over and bio-diversity, excessive concentration of harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere and food chains, growing risks of environmental accidents and threat to life support systems. This has drawn the attention of entire world community and therefore they resolved to protect and enhance the environment quality. How could the judiciary remain a silent spectator when the subject has acquired high importance and become a matter of caution and judicial notice. In a developing country like India, with uneducated masses, conditions of abject poverty, where the awareness of socio-economic and ecological problems in lacking, the judiciary has to play an active role to protect the people’s right against the anti-people order by infusing confidence in people as a whole for whom it exists, for as rightly put by Justice Lodha, “Judiciary exists for the people and not vice-versa.” Judiciary therefore cannot sit in silence and helplessly but must come forward actively to make good the deficiencies of law and provide relief wherever and whenever required. The Judiciary remained as a spectator to environmental exploitation until recently. But now judiciary assumed an effective role of public educator, policy maker, super-administrator, and more generally, amicus environment. In India Environmental law is judicial response to the queries of its citizens against environmental exploitation and administrative sloth and also role played by the public interest litigation. Since 1985 most of the environment cases in India have been brought before the court as writ petitions, normally by individuals acting on pro bono basis. While numerous legislative steps have been taken to give effect to the significant right of man to live in a sound environment and the corresponding duty of the state and individuals to ensure environmental preservation and conservation, our present endeavor is to analyze the steps taken by judiciary to forward this goal. To achieve this end, the judiciary had evolved certain principles to provide effective remedy in case of violation of constitutional and legislative mandate. In the subsequent sub divisions, several concepts which the judiciary has evolved in order to give force to the right of man to a healthy environment would be briefly dealt with. Right to a Wholesome Environment
Judicial recognition of environmental jurisprudence, in the backdrop of industrialization, reached its peak with the pronouncement of the Supreme Court that right to wholesome environment is a part of Article 21 of the Constitution. In Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar, the court observed that Article 32 of the Constitution has been designed to enforce the fundamental rights of the citizen. The said articles provides for extraordinary procedure to enforce the right of a person. The right to life under Article 21 includes the right to enjoyment of pollution free water and air for full enjoyment of life. Judicial concern regarding right to wholesome environment has been reflected in subsequent pronouncements. It has issued appropriate directions where the government machinery has failed to...
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