Nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our
land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Right to live in a pollution free environment given under Article-21 of our
Constitution held in Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar (1991). At the same time
the right to development puts an obligation on the State to ensure benefits of
development of citizenship. In the recent Rajeev Suri case
, the supreme court
while dealing with the central vista project considered the balance between
environment and development. Environment does not mean compromising the
Similarly development does not mean compromising the environment.
Both are two pillars of sustainable development. In this light this essay will
be dealing with balance between environment and development in India as well as
Provisions of Right to Environment & Development
We know that some of the rights not expressly mentioned in our Constitution have
been recognised as Fundamental Rights by the judiciary. Right to environment
prescribed as guidelines under Article-21 & Article-48A. Right to life means to
have more than survival and not mere animal existence.
Right to development was
in a document produced at 1992's United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED) in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil popularly known as Earth Summit.
According to Principle-3 of the declaration, the right to development must be
fulfilled to equitably meet and develop the environmental needs of present and
Rajeev Suri vs Union Of India
- The Supreme Court on 5th January 2021, cleared the road for the Central
Vista Project and allowed the Government to go ahead with its construction
by 2:1 majority. Justice A.M. Khanwilkar & Justice Dinesh Maheshwari forming majority
and Justice Sanjiv Khanna separate judgement.
- A petition was filed in the Supreme Court in April 2020 challenging the
Center's-change-of-land-use notification of March 2020 with regard to the 86
acres land. The petitioner, Rajeev Suri, submitted that the order violated the
citizens right to life guaranteed under Article-21 by depriving people of open
and green spaces. The petition also agreed that the notification violated the
Master Plan of Delhi and that the Centre's notification sought to override an
earlier December 2019 notice issued by Delhi Development Authority.
- Subsequently, the Court heard the challenge on three main grounds:
- Change of land use
- Violates Municipal law
- Violation of Environmental law.
- Majority judgement said - we hold that the exercise of the Central Government
under DDA Act is legal & valid and the impugned notification stands confirmed.
Recommendation by the Environmental Committee is just legal and we uphold the
- The Supreme Court while giving the verdict said, the Heritage
Conservation Committee approval will be needed when construction work of
Central Vista will begin.
- The Apex Court directed the project proponent to install Smog Tower and
use Anti-smog guns at all construction sites.
- The Court subsequently discussed Participatory Democracy which consists
of two important elements:
- Public participation in decision making &
- Placing information regarding Government actions in the public domain.
Right to Environment vs Right to DevelopmentOn the basis of this argument was whether environment and development can
In M.C. Mehta vs Union of India
(1987) popularly known as Kanpur Tanneries Case
the Supreme Court drawing balance between right to development and environment
If it finds any public nuisance affecting public and authorities
are not taking adequate steps to prevent it, the Supreme Court may issue
The case shows the environmental approach of the apex
court, where in Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Union of India (1994) Supreme Court
rejected to take cognizance of the petition by taking a stand of not
transgressing its jurisdiction.
Concept of Sustainable Development
In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs Union Of India
(1996), the Supreme Court
held that the traditional concept that development and ecology oppose each other
no longer exists. And that sustainable development is an answer. It is to note
that, in the above case, the apex court has laid down guidelines for the
Government. This judicial activism shown by the judiciary is uncalled for and
duties usurpation of power of judiciary.
It is noted that Directive Principles provide measures to build a society on the
principles of Fundamental Rights given by the Constitution of India. Directive
places the duty on the Government to take steps for achieving these goals. But
bringing these directives under the roof petition of Fundamental Rights neglects
the essence of such principle.
Written By: Shashwata Sahu, Advocate,
LLM, KIIT School of Law