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Constitutional Provisions concerning Environment Protection.

 The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, added a new Part IV (A) dealing with fundamental duties to the Indian Constitution. 

Article 51-A enlists eleven fundamental duties of which one is the duty to protect an environment. It is notable that this Part was added on the recommendations of Swaran Singh Committee bringing the Indian Constitution in line with Article 29 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Right. 

Article 51-A (g) deals with the fundamental duty with respect to the environment. It provides as follows:

"It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests lakes, rivers and the wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures."

Fundamental duty with respect to the environment is intended to promote people's participation in the protection of the environment. Further, it is important to note that the protection of the environment is a matter of constitutional priority. Environmental problems are the concern of every citizen. Neglecting it is an invitation to disaster.

Nature has given us the gift of a pollution free environment. Article 51-A (g) refers to 'natural environment'. The fundamental duty imposed on every citizen is not only to protect the environment from any kind of pollution but also to 'improve the environment quality if it has been polluted. In this way, the underlined emphasis of this fundamental duty is that every citizen has a duty to make an endeavor to preserve the environment in the same way as nature has gifted all of us.

The constitutional provision contained in Article 21 guarantees right to life and liberty to all persons. It provides "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law".

The Supreme Court has given an expanded definition to the word 'life' under Article 21 of the Constitution. While safeguarding the rights of humans, it also includes constitutional protection to all forms of life including animal life. Thus, animals also have a right against human beings not to be tortured and not to be inflicted unnecessary pains and suffering.

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2018) 14 SCALE 263, the Supreme Court reiterated that Article 21 includes the right to a decent environment which is within the scope of right of a citizen to live in a clean environment.


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