Environmental Justice under `Right to Life` – Article 21 – by Yazhini

Environmental Justice under `Right to Life` – Article 21.


The Author is Yazhini, a 4th year BBA.LL.B student at School of Law, Sastra University.



‘Living’ and the ‘environment’ are highly dependent. The interrelation is inevitable. For the harmony of the natural cycle, the ecosystem has to be balanced. Thus, environmental justice.

Human beings are protected by the clauses that are created by each country. In the same way, the environment is also meant to be protected and saved. India is one of the countries that has drafted a constitution that includes clauses used to safeguard the environment. The Directive Principles of State Policy explicitly represents the division for the promotion and to defend the environment. The constitutional makers have made environmental justice a necessity and brought it under the fundamental rights and duties. But this provision for environmental justice was not included during the original drafting of the constitution. Later on, a lot of similar socio-economic factors were taken into consideration. In Part 3 of the Indian Constitution, the scope to achieve environmental justice was created through the Fundamental Rights.


Exploitation of Environment:


The world has faced rapid growth in science and technology. For further enrichment in the newfound technological world, the environment is being contaminated at different level. Human beings make alterations in the environment according to the acceleration of life. Some good and a lot of bad, harmful changes. Money is the only thing the whole world is chasing. But the very basic necessity that people forgot over the years is the mindful use of natural resources. But instead, we are destroying the whole livelihood by polluting the environment, which is saddening.

The human conference based on the human environment was conducted at Stockholm in 1972. In the meet, the need for the safety of natural resources such as water, air, land, flora, fauna, and even for the basic element of the natural ecosystem, which helps the livelihood of living beings, was discussed.


Constitution and the Environmental Justice:


As mentioned earlier, the Constitutional framers failed to oversee the difficulties that the environment was going to face in the further days. After a few decades, the turn of exploiting the resources has begun. In the forty-second amendment of the Indian Constitution in the year 1976, the provisions of protection for forest and wildlife species were added to Part IV of the Indian Constitution, i.e., Directive Principles of State Policy. And it was also added in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule – List III. As a result, the protection of wildlife and forests is now followed.

The Indian Penal Code contains a few provisions making pollution a crime.

Section 268 defines the term public nuisance.

Section 290 makes public nuisance punishable.

Section 277 for preventing water pollution.

Section 426, 430, 431, and 432 for pollution caused by mischief is made punishable.


Interrelation of right to life and natural resources:


Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the word ‘life’ has played a significant role in the jurisprudence of environmental justice. The “right to life” under Article 21 is pivotal. Life and liberty are the light that takes the country onto a bright path. No citizen of the country can be deprived of his or her life or liberty. Consequently, the interrelation of humans is sine qua non with the  environment. Thus, Article 21 directly or indirectly shines over the right to a safe and pollution-free environment.

In the case of Charan Lal Sahu Etc. v. Union of India And Ors, it was stated that the right to life mentioned under Article 21 includes the wholesome right to the safety of the environment too. In the case of Subash Kumar v. the State of Bihar, the court mentioned that the right to life under Article 21 includes pollution-free air and water, which fulfils the total enjoyment of life.

In the following years, a lot of other court decisions and several public interest petitions by the people made several changes in environmental justice.

The Oleum Gas leak case changes various stances on the said provisions. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (the Oleum Gas Leak case), established managerial liability – absolute and non-delegable liability, which prevents the environment from the danger arising out of storing a hazardous or inherently dangerous substance. The company must ensure the protection of the environment from the storage.

Following the previous case, in the case of Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India (Bichhri pollution case), the court ordered that the company which caused the harm should compensate the people affected and more specifically for the soil polluted and the water damaged.

In one of the environmental centre cases, the decisions stated that no activity could be made in the forests, National Park and Sanctuary without the approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

In the Tarun Bharat Sangh v. Union of India case, 400 marble mines which were a threat to the wildlife in the Sariska tiger reserve were shut down by the Supreme Court.

Under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986, the pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers was asked to clean up, and a lot of similar provisions for the safety of natural resources were created. For example, the protection of silent valley biodiversity in the Western Ghats, 1970.




The future will hold horrifying consequences if we don’t act to protect the environment and the resources. The government is making a few changes that could result in the protection of the resources. And even a few other judgments were directed to environmental justice but to establish the implication as a right of humans. The environmental justice should not only be evolving through the cases after the destruction happens. From the level of municipalities and panchayats, the need to preserve the natural resources have to be imparted. The people also should show concern over the issue. The awareness of destroying the resources is the start of the destruction of humankind should be understood.



Disclaimer – The views expressed and information given in this article are solely of the author and do not represent in any way the views of or impose any liability on The Philomath, its employees or any other person or entity. We endeavor to maintain a quality check of the published articles but are in no way guaranteeing the accuracy of any information. Any legal opinion shared herein should not be used as an alternative to professional legal advice.

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