Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

Environmental jurisprudence for climate preservation

Adv Moses Pinto | JUNE 16, 2024, 01:16 AM IST

The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in PART IVA of the Constitution of India prescribes FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES which are obligatory upon every citizen of India. 

“Article 51A. It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—...

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform...”

Pursuantly, in another foreign jurisdiction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had released a Toolkit for Environmental Preservation.

The EPA defines ‘Environmental waste’ as any unnecessary use of resources or a substance released into the air, water, or land that could harm human health or the environment.

The EPA’s intent in developing this toolkit has been to enable Lean practitioners to improve both their business performance and their environmental performance by identifying and eliminating environmental wastes at their organizations. The toolkit offers practical strategies and tools for integrating (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., 2004).

“Environmental wastes are often a sign of inefficient production, and they frequently indicate opportunities for saving cost and time. The chemicals and hazardous materials used in a process often demand costly support activities, such as regulatory compliance management and reporting activities, use of personal protective equipment, and the investment, operation, and maintenance of pollution control equipment.” (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., 2004, p. 4).

Legal Methods for reporting Environmental Pollution:

In M/S Pahwa Plastics Pvt. Ltd. and Anr. Versus Dastak NGO and Ors., the Supreme Court of India in Civil Appeal No. 4795 of 2021 on March 25, 2022 observed as follows: 

“9. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, hereinafter referred to as “the EP Act” was also enacted pursuant to the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in June, 1972. As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons for enactment of the EP Act, the said Act has been prompted by concern over the environment, that has grown all over the world since the 60s.

10. Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the EP Act empowers the Central Government to take all such measures as it might deem necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and reducing environmental pollution.

11. Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the EP Act enables the Central Government to take, inter alia, the following measures: 

“(i) co-ordination of actions by the State Governments, officers and other authorities—

(a) under this Act, or the rules made thereunder; or

(b) under any other law for the time being in force which is relatable to the objects of this Act;

(ii) planning and execution of a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;

(iii) laying down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects;

(iv) laying down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources whatsoever:

Provided that different standards for emission or discharge may be laid down under this clause from different sources having regard to the quality or composition of the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from such sources;

(v) restriction of areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards;

(vi) laying down procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents which may cause environmental pollution and remedial measures for such accidents;

(vii) laying down procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances;

(viii) examination of such manufacturing processes, materials and substances as are likely to cause environmental pollution;

13. Subject to the provisions of the EP Act, the Central Government has power under sub-Section (1) of Section 3, to take all such measures, as it deems necessary or expedient, for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of environment and preventing, controlling or reducing environmental pollution.

14. Section 5 of the EP Act provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, but subject to the provisions of the EP Act, the Central Government may, in exercise of its powers and performance of its functions under the EP Act, issue directions in writing to any person, officer or any authority and such person, officer or authority shall be bound to comply with such directions.” (M/S Pahwa Plastics Pvt. Ltd. and Anr. Versus Dastak NGO and Ors., Civil Appeal No. 4795 of 2021, the Supreme Court of India).

The hon’ble Supreme Court of India on March 21, 2024 held:

“45. Internationally, courts have been confronted with the challenging task of adjudicating cases where significant issues related to climate change are at stake. The topics of environmental degradation, pollution, industries, and infrastructure projects have long formed the corpus of cases before courts across countries. Of late, however, an increasing number of cases are to do with climate change, in one way or another. It is necessary to advert to the judgments from other jurisdictions, not because they have precedential value in the adjudication of this case but to highlight global trends in climate change litigation and to assess the manner in which courts have understood their own role in such litigation.” (M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. Versus Union of India & Ors, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 838 of 2019, Supreme Court Of India)

Resultantly, the recent Supreme Court of India judgment M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2024) has created buzz around climate justice in India. The judgment reads in the right against climate change to protect the rights to life, health, food, water and a healthy environment. It recognizes the collective responsibility to take immediate action and advocates for policies that prioritize both human rights and climate action (Jatinder Cheema, 2024).

The writer is a Doctoral Researcher working under the Alliance of European Universities and has presented his research works at various Academic Conferences

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