Judiciary steps in to protect environment when state fails: CJI
Failure of state machinery to enforce environmental laws has necessitated the judiciary to step in to safeguard the public health, Chief Justice TS Thakur on Friday said.
New Delhi: Failure of state machinery to enforce environmental laws has necessitated the judiciary to step in to safeguard the public health, Chief Justice TS Thakur on Friday said while crediting the Supreme Court for its efforts in worldwide movement to protect the ecology.
"We cannot deny the fact that the judicial orders are passed out of necessity for the enforcement of the laws only when system of governance fails to implement it.
"The judgments and orders passed by the court compel the discharge of constitutional and statutory duties. More often than not, the Supreme Court has to step in to protect the environment on account of failures of state machinery," he said.
In his address at the inaugural function here on 'International Conference on Rule of Law for Supporting the 2030 Development Agenda/Sustainable Development Goals', Justice Thakur also referred to objections of Executive regarding implementation of constitutional provisions on environment on the ground they fall under Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) of Constitution and hence, unenforceable.
Referring to various judgements, the CJI said, "In the ongoing environment protection campaign, the role of Indian judiciary is no less significant. It is a matter of pride for the Indian judiciary that the movement of protection and conservation started because of the proactive role of the India judiciary and the Supreme Court.
"Parliament reiterated environment as the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) and it's not an enforceable constitutional objective. The Supreme Court in... Declared the DPSP which have found statutory expressions will not be allowed to become a statutory mockery."
At a function, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and others including Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the CJI said the "plunder" of natural resources for "greed" may endanger the life on earth and there was a need for "prudent use of available resources".
The CJI also referred to the evolution of environment case laws and said India has been among few nations in the world which have recognised the right to clean environment as a part of the fundamental right.
He also referred to legislations on air, water and the 1986 law on Environment Protection to highlight the fact that the government and the Indian judiciary have been on forefront.
The CJI also cited some historic cases where apex court went the extra mile to ensure protection of environment.
"Accordingly, whether it is Taj Mahal case, the Ganges pollution case, the Delhi traffic police case and the forest cases... The Supreme court had to step in to devise mechanism to safeguard the health of the people from toxic pollutants which situational necessity would not have arisen if the enforcement of the law by the statutory body have been effective as it should have been," he said.
Justice Thakur also stressed the need to find a balance between need to development and maintaining the environment saying India has large population and they needed to grow and develop without causing more harm to the ecology.
"It's the duty of all citizens to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion towards living creatures," the CJI said.
"India doubtless is the first country to consider the issue of environmental protection in its basic documents of governance," he said.
The CJI also said the Supreme Court, in 1996, incorporated the international environmental principle of "polluter pays" in one of the cases.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, in his speech, lauded the efforts of the NDA government in taking steps for protecting the environment and referred to its flagship schemes like 'Swachh Bharat' and 'Clean Ganga' programmes.
"Previous government spent over one billion USD on cleaning of Yamuna and but nothing of that sort has happened, but with the keen interest of the government some steps have been taken," he said.
Justice Swatanter Kumar, the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, lauded the efforts of the Modi government on environment front and referred to the 2015 Paris summit where the Indian stand on climate justice has found mention in the preamble of the resolution.