In India environmental law has seen considerable development in the last two decades. Most of the principles under which environmental law works in India come within this period. The development of the laws in this area has seen a considerable share of initiative by the Indian judiciary, particularly the higher judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court of India, and the High Courts of the States. The role of the administration, although a critical factor in the success of any environmental management programme, has seen its share of problems of scale and definition.
The essence of the existing law relating to the environment has developed through legislative and judicial initiative. Today, most discussions on environmentalism in our country begin with the Stockholm Conference (1972). Development of Environmental Jurisprudence and Justice Environmental Jurisprudence in India made a beginning in the mid-seventies when Parliament enacted the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
But soon, there was a quantum leap with the amendment of our Constitution in 1976 and incorporation of Article 48-A in the Directive Principles of State Policy and Article 51- A (g) in the Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India. Both these Articles unequivocally provide for protection and improvement of the environment. Inevitably, Parliament enacted the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. With this core group of three enactments, a modest beginning was made by Parliament.
Unfortunately, soft laws were enacted (and they continue to remain so) at a time when strong legislation was critical for environmental conservation. The Supreme Court, in its interpretation of Article 21, has facilitated the emergence of an environmental jurisprudence in India, while also strengthening human rights jurisprudence. There are numerous decisions wherein the right to a clean environment, drinking water, a pollution-free atmosphere, etc. has been given the status of inalienable human rights and, therefore, fundamental rights of Indian citizens.