India geographically has a great location with a great environment and ample resources as a gift from God. India has a great history in protecting, conserving, and using resources effectively. Our historical texts like Arthashastra, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas and even Manusmriti have the concepts about conserving and protecting the environment, and even our 4 Vedas warn us about the undesirable climate changes, degradation in the environment, imbalance in the ecosystem may harm us, therefore we need to conserve it. With the change in time, the laws- as an instrument of social change and regulation- protecting the environment and ecology were introduced after the Post Independence era. The Environmental laws were first introduced in the 42nd Amendment in the Constitution of India. From that time Environmental Jurisprudence became a part of Indian laws. But do we know what Environmental Jurisprudence is? Why did we need this law? How did this law developed in India? Further, we will touch upon all these questions and legal concepts further in this article.

What is Environmental Jurisprudence?

Environmental Jurisprudence is the understanding of knowledge of Environmental laws. There are various laws dealing with environment protection in India- like Environmental Protection Act, 1986, Water Prevention and Control Act, 1974, Indian Forest Act, 1927, and Air Prevention and Control Act,1981. Every Act has its specification and it guides us on how to protect the environment, Prevent and control the pollution that is in the environment. The knowledge of these laws help us in understanding the framework of environmental protection from pollution and to prevent us a little from polluting the environment. Therefore the knowledge of the environmental laws is an important part of our knowledge.

Why do we need Environmental Jurisprudence or Environmental Laws?

Laws also play the role of a medium of creating deterrence by means of punishment or punitive fine, which helps us little bit in controlling the people. India is a largely populated country and its increasing population has led to overexploitation of the environment which in result has started to leave its after-effects.

Here are some illustrations, we had overexploited the Air and in return we are facing numerous health issues like asthma and other breathing issues. We overexploited rivers and underground water and today we are facing several health issues and we are about to face scarcity of clean water to drink and use; and in near future clean and safe drinking water will be finished. We have overexploited land by throwing garbage here and there; on agricultural land we have used various chemicals and pesticides which has made crops growth more time limited and faster to grow but land has became very toxic which affects over underground water also and there are various issues and connections of polluting environment and its after effects over all of us. But still, we do not understand the importance and therefore to control us and prevent us from exploiting the resources and environment, government has made environmental protection laws with a framework and authority to entrust the protection of environment.   

How did Environmental laws develop in India?

The development in Environmental laws first took place at the International level. In 1972, the United Nations had a conference on the environment that is known as the Stockholm Declaration, 1972. Although this declaration accommodated 26 principles, it also put down the major International concerns over environmental issues that can take place all over the world and foremost the concerns were about developing countries, industrialized countries and linked them between environmental pollution, their economic growth, and well being of the people around the world. The Stockholm Declaration also gave one more major result: the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme. With this development in the International Environmental Law, the Indian Environmental law also developed and that can be understood by dividing the time of development into two parts i.e. (a) Pre Stockholm Development Era. (b) Post Stockholm Developmental Era.

Pre Stockholm Development Era.

Although many laws were developed in India during this era like the law of contracts, the law of torts, special laws, water laws, forest laws, etc., there were no express laws related to environmental protection, culturally India had a fair idea of environment protection inculcated in the people of India but same was not true for industries and industrial world indulged in the race of development.

Post Stockholm Developmental Era.

After the Stockholm period, the International Environmental Jurisprudence witnessed a hike in the development of various areas; this conference also drew world attention to the protection of the environment with development within their areas. At that time, when Mrs. India Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, she attended the Stockholm Conference held in the United Nations, where she was inspired by the discussion held as well as she understood the importance of the protection of the environment with the development of the nation.

Thereafter, India and the Indian constitution witnessed the lengthiest and the most important amendment in India and that was the 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, this amendment brought major changes in the law of the land, and this amendment is known as Mini Constitution. As a result of the introduction of the Mini Constitution, there were many changes introduced this also included the change and introduction of various articles stating the protection of the environment as a fundamental duty of the citizens, i.e. Article 51 - A (g). This article implies the duty of the citizens stating it is the duty of the citizens “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures”. The protection of the environment is not only the responsibility of citizens but also a duty for the state under Directive Principles of State Policy Article 48 - A it makes the state bound with the duty “to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. We have been gifted with some basic rights by the constitution i.e. The Fundamental Rights these rights also have one right which has extreme ambit i.e. Article 21 of Part III of our Constitution of India, “Right to life and Personal Liberty” one of the scopes of this article talks about “Right to the pollution-free environment - pollution free Air and Water”.

From the very beginning Article 21 was there for the protection of the environment but there was a need for a new statute that could regulate and ensure the protection of the Environment therefore new legislation was introduced with that and before that also many legislations were introduced that were WILDLIFE (PROTECTION) ACT, 1972, WATER (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1974, FOREST (CONSERVATION) ACT, 1980, AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1981, ENVIRONMENT (PROTECTION) ACT, 1986, PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE ACT, 1991, BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT, 2002, NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL ACT, 2010.

The Supreme Court of India after the 1980s gave various decisions in the concern of protection of the Environment. We talk about rules and restrictions, protection of the environment, prevention of pollution from Air and Water and many more things. Now we will discuss various important Judgments of Indian Courts strengthening Environmental Jurisprudence.

Important Cases

Various cases helped to shape or to develop the Environmental Jurisprudence, here we will discuss some landmark cases here:

Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra & Ors. V. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., 1985 AIR 625.

In Mussoorie on the Himalayas, mining was on the way. They blasted the hills by the use of Dynamite to extract stones and especially the Limestones. This blast resulted in the collapse of the hillsides. After this collapse the mining work started deep into the hillside, this practice is illegal in itself. This illegal practice caused loss of vegetation and as a result of this loss in the area of Mussoorie especially in the hills of the Himalayas, landslides occurred. This landslide took many innocent lives, destroyed many homes, castles, and agricultural land. The mining operators claimed that the case should be closed and the issues related to it should be passed to the administrative authorities working under the Environmental protection Act. Later a committee was formed which was named as Monitoring Committee. It took this issue and started to work on it. The committee passed many directions to the company but disregarding the directions the company continued mining in the way it did earlier and this caused enormous damage to the environment and the people living there. Because of this disregarding, the Monitoring Committee filed its application in court. After the filing of the application, the court held that the mining activity was held as it is despite the formation of a committee and the directions provided by the committee and Vijay Shree mines had caused huge damage to the area. Thus the court directed the company to pay a fine of 3 lakh rupees to the committee. After some years the case went to the Honourable Supreme Court of India, where the court held that mining is hazardous to the environment and the health of the people and therefore mining should be stopped. Court also held that a safe environment is an integral part of Article 21 i.e. Right to Life and Personal Liberty under the Constitution of India. This case first required the balance between the environment and environmental conservation in opposition to the demands of the Industries for the resources. The court gave some directions in the vision of this case i.e. first, the mining operations that were stopped would be allotted new areas to start the extraction work of Limestone again. Second, the Ecological Taskforce ( Central Department) would work for afforestation and reclaim the destroyed area by mining and use of Dynamite. After the displacement of the workers working in mines, jobs should be provided by the priority with the Ecological Task Force operating in the Region. This case is also known as the Doon Valley case.

Municipal Council, Ratlam vs Shri Vardhichand & Ors on 29 July 1980; 1980 AIR 1622, 1981 SCR (1) 97.

Ratlam is a city under Madhya Pradesh. Under this case, some people living in the city went to the SDM of their area and lodged a complaint against the Municipality working in their area that they are not working properly and they had not constructed the Drainage system properly which is causing various issues such as there is fetor which is creating nuisance in their area and to them. SDM ordered the Municipality to prepare a developmental plan within 6 months from the day of a complaint filed by the people of Ratlam City (this order of the SDM was supported by the High Court of the City and hence Municipality decided to go to the Apex court). When the Appeal came in front of the Honourable Supreme Court of India, the Appellants claimed that they had improper financial support to go with the flow as directed by the SDM of the city. Further Respondents contended that Municipality has failed to fulfill its commitment as directed by the SDM, this has impacted the public of the city and this is causing hazardous health issues to the public and their homes of the city. Respondents focused to stop the pollution caused and this ignorance also increased the cases of Malaria. the Supreme court ordered to take instant and necessary steps in the order to protect the City from the pollution caused and the hazardous health issues such as malaria. Court also said that the city should be sanitized properly after the development of the plan and this order should be fulfilled within 6 months from the date of a court order. The further court held that if the municipal corporation has the need of resources and funds it can raise its demand before the State to fulfill the demands whatever the requirements are however they can fulfill it they can do but they have to complete the requirements of the city at the earliest as it comes under the Fundamental Rights of the people under Article 21 Right to life and Personal Liberty has integrated feature of the pollution-free environment.

Developments made by M.C. Mehta cases. 

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1986) 2 SCC 176.

The history of India has witnessed a hazardous case that took thousands of innocent lives and gave deep irrevocable pains to thousands and thousands of families and made a question over the state and its implementation of environmental laws. This case is famously known as the Bhopal Tragedy Case. In this case, on the midnight of 2nd December 1984, there was a leakage of poisonous gas (methyl isocyanate) from Union Carbide Corporation India Limited at Bhopal, M.P. This incident took the lives of 2260 people and caused hazardous health issues to over 6 lakh people. This case was taken to the Supreme Court as PIL under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. This case was taken into consideration and directed that the companies working in manufacturing hazardous and lethal chemicals should take necessary steps in view of the protection of the people and continue their work. the companies working in manufacturing hazardous and lethal chemicals will have the absolute liability for their employees as well as if there are residents nearby their industries. The court also directed the central government to set up an Environmental Court and set up a Judge with two experts as members in order to assist the Judge. To fulfill the requirement, the Central Government passed the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 to deal with environmental-related issues.

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 4 SCC 463.

In this case, the Apex Court ordered leather tanneries to shut down their workshops situated in Jajmau near Kanpur as they were polluting River Ganga via Industrial waste. In this case, the Court also stated the importance of environmental laws such as the Water (Prevention and Control Pollution) Act and The Environmental Protection Act. Even though the Provisions of both the Acts were not being followed by the Industries and thus Court ordered the tanneries to establish a Water treatment Plant. This was the minimum implication implied by the Apex Court over the Industries.

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India- Vehicular Pollution Case

This case helped in developing and regulating laws for Vehicles polluting Air in the National Territory of Delhi. A committee was set up with an objective to decide what can be done in this case. The committee ordered the government to submit the reports within two months and also mention what major steps were taken in this view.


There are various cases where Environmental Jurisprudence witnessed its importance on the land and its implementation lead to less pollution as per the expected pollution that could be caused by the Industries in the absence of these rules and cases. The landmark cases have developed the environmental Jurisprudence with time and have helped in amendments too. 

About the Author: This post is prepared by Ms. Tripti Sinha, law student at Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida and is a Student Coordinator at MyLawman. She can be reached at

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