“Nature is an eternal storehouse of great mysteries and enchanting beauties. She is a sincere friend who embalms man when his heart is wounded. She is a great philosopher who answers many a question of men. So spell bound the men become by her overall beauties that he finds tongues in trees, books in brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything. Nature is a thing of beauty and being in the company of Nature means a joy forever”.
Man is both the creature and moulders of his environment, which gives him physical sustenance and affords him the best opportunity to develop himself into spiritual being. In the long and tortuous evolution of human race on this planet, a stage has been reached when through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on unprecedented scale. Both aspect’s of man environment, natural and manmade are essential to his well being and to the enjoyment of basic human right and the right to life itself.
Environment is the wellspring of life on earth like water, air, soil, etc., and determines the presence, development and improvement of humanity and all its activities. The concept of ecological protection and preservation is not new. It has been intrinsic to many ancient civilizations. Ancient India texts highlights that it is the dharma of each individual in the society to protect nature and the term ‘nature’ includes land, water, trees and animals which are of great importance to us. . In the ‘Atharva Veda’, the ancient Hindu Sceptres’ stated “What of thee I dig out let that quickly grow over”. Thus the word “environment” includes surroundings. It can be defined as anything which may be treated as covering the physical surroundings that are common to all of us including land, air, water, space and wildlife. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Section 2(a) environment “includes water, air and land and inter- relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property”. Almost 95% action taken place in the court of law to protect the environment is through Public Interest Litigation. One of the names that come out boldly in laying the foundation of environmental Jurisprudence and environment protection is that of Spirited Public man, Shri M.C. Mehta who single handedly has filed a number of Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court relating to the different aspect of environment protection. Since the 1980’s the Public Interest Litigation has altered both the litigation landscape and the role of higher Judiciary in India. Instead of being asked to solve the private disputes, Supreme Court and High Court Judges were asked to deal with the public grievances over flagrant human rights violation by the state or to vindicate the “Public Interest Litigation”. In Public Interest Litigation the subject matter of the litigation is typically a grievance against the violation of the basic human rights of the poor and helpless people or about the content or conduct of government policy. The petitioner seeks to be the champion of a public cause for the benefit of all society.
*Environmental Care by the Constitution and Judicial Grammar of Interpretation of Fundamental Norms
The Indian constitution is amongst the few constitutions in the world that contains the specific provision on environmental protection. The Directive principle of State policy and fundamental duties explicitly enunciate the national commitment to protect, preserve and improve the environment. Judicial Interpretation has strengthened this constitutional mandate.
It is only because of the concept of PIL that the Supreme Court is able to give the wider interpretation to the environmental laws in India. Some of these notable interpretations are as follows-
1. Every person enjoys the Right to wholesome environment which is facet of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of Indian Constitution.
2. Enforcement agencies are under the obligation to strictly enforce environmental laws.
3. Government agencies may not plead non availability of funds, inadequacy of Staff or other insufficiencies to justify the non performance of their obligation under environmental laws.
4. The Polluter Pays principle which is a part of basic environmental law of the land requires that the polluter bear the remedial clean up costs as well as the amount payable to compensate the victims of Pollution.
5. The precautionary principle requires government authorities to participate and anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environment pollution. This principle also imposes onus of proof on the developer and industrialists to show that his or her action is environmental benign.
The growth of environmental laws in India has been largely influenced and accelerated by Public Interest Litigation. It has generated tremendous awakening about the concept of the importance of environment and has interpreted various aspect of environment in the judgement of different courts which were certainly not known to the masses. Thus PIL had totally transformed the jurisprudence of public law review. In public interest case the subject matter of litigation is totally and typically a grievance against the violation of basic human rights of the poor and helpless or about the contents or conduct of government policy, where the petitioner seeks to be the champion a public cause for the benefit of the entire society and judge plays the activist role in contrast to passive umpire-ship traditionally associated with Judicial functions. The technique of PIL provides an effective remedy to enforce group rights and interest as the traditional Judicial System is not equipped to tackle such problems. The socio economic demands of a changing society, groaning under the strains of rapid industrial development adversely impacting the natural riches, warrant a different kind of Jurisprudence-dynamic, vibrant and resistant to address the people’s problems. PIL is one such tool to help the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden and exploited millions. It is essentially a cooperative and collaborative effort on the part of the petitioner, the state and public authority and the court to secure the observance of the constitutional and legal rights, benefits and privileges conferred upon the vulnerable section and community and to provide social Justice to them. It is part of participative justice, which is called upon to meet the ends of public good, interest and cause.
*Doctrines of environmental Jurisprudence;
The formulation of certain principles to develop the better regime for protecting the environment is a remarkable achievement. In this regard the observation made by Justice P. N Bhagwati in S.P Gupta V. Union of India that is –
“The Court has to innovate new methods and devise new strategies for the purpose o f providing access to justice to large masses o f people who are denied their basic human rights and to whom freedom and liberty have no meaning.”
In M.C Mehta v. Union of India the Supreme Court formulated the “doctrine of Absolute Liability” for the harm caused by hazardous industry by interpreting the scope of the power under Article 32 to issue directions, orders ‘whichever may be appropriate’ in ‘appropriate proceeding’
The Precautionary Principle emphasised by the Rio Declaration on environment and development signifies a preventive approach. It states that-
“In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
*Polluter Pay Principle
Rapid industrial development has brought in its wake, myriad environmental and pernicious health problems. Though the industrial and technological development have helped to improve food products, raised the living standards but at the same time had adversely affected the environment and thereby disturbed the “BALANCE OF NATURE”. Moreover the improper treatment of industrial waste has led to cause a serious problem to the biotic and aboitic components of the environment.
The polluter pay principle was for the first time was applied and defined in the case of Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action v. Union of India, it was declared by the court that redemption of the damaged environment is part of the process of sustainable development and as such the polluter is liable to pay the cost of the individual sufferers as well as the cost reversing the damaged ecology. Thus polluter pays principle means the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also to the cost of restoring the environmental degradation. Remediation of the damaged environment is the part of the process of sustainable development.