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Article 21 Bestows Upon Every Individual The Sacred Right To Breathe In The Embrace Of A Pristine And Untainted Environment

The preservation of life and individual liberty as guaranteed by the fundamental rights is covered in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution[1]. According to this article, "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law[2].

It is believed that this piece is the most significant of all. Although other articles are equally vital, this one is particularly significant since it deals with our lives, which are the most important thing for individuals, and because all other rights of individuals depend around it. Despite the fact that the phraseology of Article 21 begins with a negative term, the word No has been used in connection to the word deprived.

The right to life has a wide range of applications and is difficult to define since it involves more than merely taking someone's life. The reach of Article 21 used to be rather limited since, according to the ruling in A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras[3], "the personal liberty was confined to freedom of imprisonment and, as a result, deprivation does not impede upon the right to travel freely, which fell under article 19 (1) (d)."

But then came the decision of Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India[4], which answered the problem of legal acceptability in relation to articles 14 and 19, holding that "the method has to be proper, equitable, and not whimsical, frivolous, or coercive."

It was further stated that living with "human dignity" rather than just existing as an animal is what is meant by "life" in Article 21. According to the decision in Francis Coralie v. Union territory of Delhi[5], "the right to life encompasses the right to live with human dignity, which further involves basic requirements such appropriate sustenance, clothes, and accommodation and amenities for learning, thinking, and self-expression, as well as the freedom to move about and interact and mix with other fellow humans."

In addition, for a person to live with dignity, minimal necessities such as protection of employees' health and strength from abuse, educational facilities, reasonable and humane working conditions, and maternity leave must exist. The notion of Article 21 was subsequently expanded as courts continued to debate issues involving the right to life after that.

Today, it also encompasses the right to privacy, education, health care, and other things. It also includes the right to food, water, shelter, and a clean environment. The Article 21 is so sort of like a miniature constitution, and it was stated in the case of Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh[6], that it "is the core of the Fundamental Rights"

Therefore, the primary goal of this article is to prevent loss of one's personal freedom and deprivation of life as a result of State actions, and legal procedure must be fulfilled correctly. The link between the environment and the right to life will be the exclusive focus of my project, however, since I am concerned with the right to a clean environment within the parameters of Article 21 of the Constitution. But, once again, prior delving into the connection, I'd want to shed some light on the fundamentals of the environment.

It is connected to so many other disciplines, including ecology, biology, geography, physiology, psychology, and others, the term "environment" cannot be defined accurately. The surroundings that a person or other creature lives in, such as the natural resources, atmosphere, water bodies, etc., can be described as the environment in layman's words.

"The environment is everything that isn't me," Einstein once said. An significant aspect of a person's existence is their resources[7]. In order to meet their requirements, not only people but also animals rely on the environment.

To satisfy his wants, man interacts with the environment continually. Along with the social demands like entertainment, medical, etc., these needs also cover the basic requirements of air, food, and habitat. Environment was perceived quite differently at earlier times (Vedic era). Environment was governed by ethical principles.

Air and water are the most essential gifts from nature for the preservation of life, according to the statement made in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[8]. Forests were essential to humanity in the past because they offered refuge, and trees were revered as gods. The earth is regarded as a valued place because of nature's bounty."

The essence is that an environment that is healthy is vitally important for the wellbeing of all species, hence in ancient times, it was seen to be an integral aspect of one's life. The environment alone can satisfy all of our wants, large and little. The location has since been altered, though. Man has grown more materialistic and avaricious as time has gone on.

To satisfy his rising material demands and aspirations, man has felt the drive to alter his environment. He began exploitation of the earth's resources and evolved from preserver to destructive. Since it has taken on a dangerous posture, the pollution issue is the one that worries people the most.

Since the pollution issue has assumed a dangerous posture, it has been decided that further research is required, both for and Since it has assumed a dangerous posture, the pollution issue is the one that concerns people the most. This has led to a tremendous desire to properly explore the subject, and our judiciary has made major efforts in this direction[9].

The foundation is the relevant parts of the Indian Constitution. It should be noted that in the first version of the Indian Constitution from 1950, issues related to nature preservation and environmental protection were left out. Perhaps serious environmental challenges that the country is now confronting were not envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. In spite of this, these two witnesses have made significant strides during the past half century.

During the 1970s, as the development occurred, the Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act of 1976 was enacted. Directive principles of policy have been included into the Constitution through the seventh schedule and the third list of special provisions linked to some areas of the concurrent list, primarily for the protection of forests and animals, in Part IV: State Policy Guidelines (Article 48A) Principles:
The following provisions are made expressly for environmental protection and nature conservation, as well as for the growth of forests and wild life and protection of the constitution: State shall work to safeguard and enhance the environment, as well as the nation's forests and wildlife[10].

Article 51, Part IV A[11]: Fundamental Duty Protecting India's woods, lakes, rivers, and wildlife as well as the advanced natural environment and having compassion for all living creatures shall be the responsibility of every Indian citizen. The third schedule's seventh schedule (Article 246) and the associated list of elements Reports of animal abuse in Prevention 17 (Item 17A Forest, Item 17B) protection of birds and wild animals. Even we agree that the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984 was the catalyst for India to experience its true terror, but immediately after the Stockholm summit, attention turned to the pollution issue.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1989, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, and most importantly the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 were all laws passed by the Indian parliament to protect and improve the environment.

It was important to give a comprehensive overview of Art.21 and the environment in order to go on. "Life and the environment are interdependent, and the continued survival of life on Earth depends on the peaceful coexistence of the ecosystem and the environment." Each person has some rights that they can exercise as soon as they are born. The right to live in a clean environment is one such entitlement.

The very first signaling pathway was connected to Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with "the right to life. Through legal rulings, the idea of the right to life has been expanded[12]. The judiciary recognised the right to a clean, healthy environment as a basic human right when deciding disputes involving the environment. 

The right to a healthy environment was subsequently defined by the Supreme Court to include the rights to life and personal liberty. In the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[13], the right to a healthy environment, or the concerns connected to the ecological and environmental  balance, was acknowledged for the very first time.

According to a letter addressed to the Supreme Court by the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun, unlawful lime stone mining in the Mussorie-Dehradun region is harming the area's vulnerable ecosystems. Under Article 32 of the Constitution, the Court recognised this letter as a petition of public interest.

Additionally, a number of committees have been established for a thorough examination of unlawful mining locations. All committees came to the opinion that only lime stone quarries with very few negative impacts should be permitted to operate, and that too only after additional examination. As a result, the Court mandated the closure of certain stone operations.

The environment has also been heavily debated in the case of Virender Gaur v. State of Haryana[14], within the context of "hygienic atmosphere and ecological balance." "Article 21 safeguards the right to life as a fundamental right," the Court stated. Sanitation, without which life cannot be enjoyed, ecological balance free from air and water pollution, and the enjoyment of life and its accomplishment, including their right to live with human dignity, fall under this umbrella. Environmental contamination would result from any illegal behaviour.

Pollution of the environment, including the air, water, and land, should be considered a violation of Article 21. In light of this, maintaining a sanitary environment is essential to having the right to a healthy life, and it is necessary for maintaining human dignity. As a result, environmental preservation has become a major priority for human survival. Encouraging nature conservation entails preserving the environment as a whole, which includes both the Human-made and natural environments."

So, without a question, the state bears the primary obligation to conserve and improve the environment in order to care for persons. Every person must, however, simultaneously assist the authorities preserve a safe and clean environment by making a contribution.

Hazardous gas pollution, garbage disposal, and other environmental issues account for the majority of environmental lawsuits. The Bhopal Gas Disaster case, a global industrial catastrophe that occurred in 1984, is known as such. The Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL)[15], facility in Bhopal was established. This Indian business was a subsidiary of the Union Carbide Corporation, USA (UCC).

More than 3,000 people were murdered and many more suffered major injuries when a large leak of methyl isocyanate occurred from this factory on December 23, 1984, around night. The toxic chemical gas's black haze enveloped the whole area. However, the court was unable to draw any conclusions since by that point, another accident, less serious than the Bhopal tragedy, had occurred in Delhi.

The Oleum Gas Leakage case[16], was the name given to this second occurrence. In one instance, there was an oleum gas leak from a facility owned by Shri Ram Foods and Fertilizer Industries in Delhi, which covered areas of Delhi in yellow smoke. Despite the fact that the chemical gas did not have the same level of toxicity and danger as the Bhopal gas disaster, there were still some negative impacts on the local population.

In this lawsuit, the "absolute responsibility" rule-which states that the business will be accountable regardless of whether there is an act of Nature, such as an earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster, or an act of terrorism or hostile action-was founded.

The Court reasoned that 'an business involved in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry that constitutes a possible threat to the health and safety of the individuals working in the factory and dwelling in the surrounding regions has an absolute and non-delegated obligation to the community to guarantee that no damage happens to anybody as a result of the hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the activity which it has undertaken, and so, such companies would be liable to liability.

'The Supreme Court issued specific directives in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India to tackle environmental awareness[17].
  1. Movie theatres and video arcades must display at least two slides about the environment created by the ministry of the environment.
  2. Interesting environmental programming will receive 5-7 minutes every day on Doordarshan and AIR.
  3. It is proposed that environmental education be established a graded topic in schools, and that a course be developed for it in colleges and universities.

Indian council for Enviro-Legal action v. Union of India[18],
The Supreme Court, which is also often referred to as the "coastal zone protection case," took the executive's lax approach to enforcing the laws designed to safeguard the right to life seriously and ordered them to enforce the relevant laws severely to preserve natural equilibrium.

Indeed the 'Sustainable Development Principle,' which states that there must be a balance between development and ecological, came to be accepted. Without taking the environment into account, economic growth "may result in substantial environmental harm that affects the population's quality of life, both now and in the future."

Thus, in order to achieve sustainable development, it is urgently necessary to maintain equilibrium between the needs of growth and the degrees of environmental preservation. Emission controls will be more important for sustainable development because it is the main source of environmental imbalance and deterioration.

The most fundamental principle of 'Sustainable Development' is intergenerational equity, which talks about the right of every generation.

The Precautionary Principle: This is often regarded as the most fundamental principle of sustainable development. 
  1. The state government and municipal authorities' environmental policies must foresee, thwart, and combat the issue of ecosystem deterioration.
  2. Where there is a risk of substantial and permanent damage, a lack of scientific confidence should not be utilized to delay efforts to avoid ecological damage.
  3. The onus of evidence is with the performer or provider to demonstrate that their behavior is ecologically responsible.
  4. The "polluter pays" concept: It is clear that the goal of the aforementioned principle was to hold polluters accountable for both the expense of reversing environmental damage and the cost of compensating victims. Regardless of whether or not the actor participated in the production process, he is still responsible for paying damages if he is found to have committed a crime[19].

In the case of Vellore Citizen's Welfare Forum vs. Union of India[20], the two concepts, the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle, were acknowledged. The tanning industry in this instance is to blame for water contamination. The "precautionary principle" and the "polluter pays principle" were used to award compensation to pollution victims, and the Supreme Court also concluded that these two principles are a component of the environment. This was done in recognition of the common law right of the public to a clean and healthy environment.

M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (Vehicular Pollution Case)[21], 
The government was deemed responsible for ensuring that traffic pollution in Delhi did not lead to unsafe levels of air pollution. The Apex Court reiterated that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right and said that the right to clean air also derived from Art. 21, which was about the right to life. Because of this case, lead-free gasoline has been supplied in Delhi, which has become a significant milestone. As the courts ordered, all commercial cars older than 5 years were retired.

Right to Development Vs. Right to Environment [22]
A clean atmosphere is necessary for a person to have a decent existence. However, we must give up another feature, namely the right to development, in order to maintain a healthy environment. India is a developing nation, thus it is crucial for it to continue to grow if it wants to compete with the rest of the globe. "Industry is crucial for the growth of a country and for addressing the rising needs of the people.

Development is necessary to ensure the fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, it pollutes the environment by introducing items into the human environment and depleting natural resources by extracting materials from them. Numerous instances and industries are the primary contributors to an unhealthy atmosphere, which is a justification for violating Article 21 of the Constitution, as I have already highlighted.

As a result, such companies that generate noxious compounds and damage the environment must be stopped, as this is the greatest approach to eliminate pollution at its source. But, once again, this means that we are impeding the growth of our country.

Trees must be chopped down immediately in order to meet the demands of the population, which is expanding at an accelerated rate and necessitating both industrial use of trees and the provision of shelter for people. This means that our only remaining alternative is to wreak environmental havoc.

So, the quality of land, water, and air has been greatly degraded by man's indiscriminate usage, to the point that they are not longer suitable for even his own wants and objectives. Although family planning is achievable if individuals are made aware of the issue and receive an education, it is also important to consider how far this is actually feasible. Even Nevertheless, as the number grows, so will the number of people and their need for amenities like housing and luxury goods.

"Nature has supplied everything for our need but not for greed," Gandhi said. If it is forbidden for them to chop down trees for shelter, it is also forbidden for them to live, which is a violation of both their right to life and their right to personal freedom. If an action is let to go, it could cause environmental harm that is irreversible, and if it is halted, there may be damage to the economy that is incurable.

The industries may then be switched as a second option. But does that really address the issue? It does, in part, fix the issue, but what about the rights of individuals who work in these sectors? For the sake of their families, they must give their lives. Since certain people, namely those who work for such enterprises, are still present, it is impossible to guarantee this right to everyone. The major victims of these ecological concerns must be the underprivileged. 

Although the original intent of Article 21 of the Constitution was somewhat limited, it has since been expanded. The Indian judiciary has been critical in interpreting Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Due to the Indian Supreme Court's interpretation that the right to life also encompasses the right to a clean environment and the right to live in a civilised society, the Indian Constitution's Article 21 has been significantly broadened. The right of every person to a healthy and secure environment is not, however, specifically guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

The primary priority of today is environmental conservation. It is the most pressing need since a clean environment is essential for human health and safety. Furthermore, it is believed that the environment and development are two sides of the same coin. These cannot be traded off in favour of one another. As for the improvement of our future, both are equally crucial.

The public's health and the environment's cleanliness must, however, take precedence over any potential loss of private profit. The courts have the final obligation for swiftly and extremely cautiously handling these situations. Such environmental challenges may be effectively addressed if individuals are well-informed and conscious of their actions.

Additionally, to combat dangerous businesses, the government must implement stringent restrictions with caution. The chance to acquire environmental information must be available to each person. By making information readily available, states will enable and encourage public knowledge and engagement.

  1. M. P Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 7th Edition, 2014, pg 1260.
  2. Article 21 of Indian Constitution, 1950.
  3. AIR 1950 SC 27.
  4. AIR 1978 SC 597.
  5. AIR 1981 SC 746.
  6. AIR 1993 SC 2178.
  7. Shubhhankar Dam, "Green Laws For Better Health: The Past That Was And The Future That May Be - Reflections From The Indian Experience", 2004, 16 Geo. Int'l Envtl. L. Rev. 593.
  8. AIR 1988 SC 2187.
  9. S.C. Shastri, "Environmental Law", 3rd Edition, Eastern Book Company, 2008.
  10. Mahendra P. Singh, V.N. Shukla's "Constitution of India", 11th Edition, Eastern Book Company, 2008.
  11. The constitution of Indian, 1950.
  12. Menaka Gandhi vs. Union Of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.
  13. AIR 1988 SC 2187.
  14. AIR1995 SCC 577.
  15. AIR 1990 SC 273.
  16. AIR 1987 SC 965.
  17. AIR 1987 965.
  18. (1996) 5 SCC 281.
  19. S.A.Atapattu, Emerging Principle of International Environmental Law, Vol.7, 2007, pg 438.
  20. AIR 1986 SC 2715.
  21. W.P.(Civil) No. 817 of 2015.
  22. Right to Development vs Right to Environment in the Light of the Decision of Rajeev Suri v/s UOI 2021.

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