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Human Rights are rights that are provided from birth to death to all persons of the world which include basic rights and liberties. Human rights are basic requirements for a living being. A person’s human rights cannot be taken by any state, and a state cannot grant human rights to its citizens because the human rights are already provided when they were born. Environmental law is the law that provides protection to the environment by regulating the use of natural resources like forests, minerals, etc. Environmental laws are as important as Human Rights. Both Human Rights and Environmental laws are linked to each other.

International conferences

In 1972, 1st conference was held for the environment and the declaration of the conference is also known as Stockholm Declaration. In this declaration, there were 26 principles laid to address the concerns about environmental issues. One of the major contributions made by the Stockholm Declaration was that it led to the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

United Nations Conference on Environment Development of 1992 known as Earth Summit or the Rio Conference led to the formation of the Commission on Sustainable development. The main agreements that happened on the conference are that it defined a series of principles for sustainable development which defined the rights and responsibility of people to live in a healthy environment and also their responsibility towards the protection of the environment, a global plan of action for promoting sustainable development. Rio declaration formulates a link between human rights and environmental laws.

UN Conference on Sustainable Development of 2012 also known as the Rio +20.  It led to many great outcomes like the conference was the publication of ‘The Future we want’. UN Sustainable Development Summit of 2015 was an important summit because of the reason it passed an agenda for sustainable development named ‘transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’

Laws related to Human rights and Environmental law in India

Right to equality is covered under Article 14 to 16[1] of Constitution of India, Right to protection of life and personal liberty  under Article 21 of Constitution of India, Right against Exploitation is covered under Article 23 and 24 of Constitution of India, Right to Freedom of Religion is covered under article 25 to 28  of Constitution of India, Culture and Educational Rights is covered under 29 and 30 of Constitution of India, Right to Constitutional Remedies from article 32 to 35 of Constitution of India. These rights are also known as fundamental rights provided by the Constitution of India.

Few legislation that are responsible for the environment are like the 2010’s  The National Green Tribunal Act, 1918’s The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974’s The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1986’s The Environment Protection Act, The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations and The Forest Conservation Act of 1970, etc.

Cases laws and commission report

In the case of Indian Council of Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India[2], Supreme Court pointed that there is a need for the establishment of Environment courts having civil and criminal jurisdiction to deal with environmental issues. Supreme Court in case of A.P. Pollution Control Board v. M.V. Nayudu[3] referred for the need of establishing Environmental Courts

In 186th report of the law commission the idea to constitute an environmental Court was put forward. The whole idea behind establishing such kinds of courts is that the cases related to environment will be dealt here which in turn provides it more respect in the eyes of law. In 2009 the National Green Tribunal Bill was introduced and it provides for the establishment of a Green Tribunal, which will act as an Environment Court that deals with the cases related to environmental protection and conservation of natural resources and forests.

In Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar[4], the judges of the Supreme Court informed that under Article 21[5] which takes about the right to life, it also includes the right of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life. So, from this judgment we can conclude that Human rights and Environmental laws are linked to each other as having the pollution-free water and the air is a part of Environmental law and having a right to life is a human right, so both are interlinked with each other.

Correspondence between human rights and environmental law

Human rights and the environment these both the things go side by side and cannot be operated independent of each other. We cannot imagine to enjoy human rights without a clean, safe, and healthy environment and sustainable environmental governance cannot be imagined without the establishment and respect for human rights.

After the Stockholm Declaration, the relationship between human rights and environmental laws has received great attention internationally as well as nationally. The Human Rights Council observed that damage to the environment had a great impact on the enjoyment of human rights. The environment and human rights are closely interlinked, as observed by the Human Rights Council. In recent times there have been many debates regarding the relationship between human rights and environmental laws, and mostly all have concluded that both are closely linked to each other and both are interdependent on each other. Human Rights for example like the right to life we cannot enjoy it without having a clean, safe and healthy environment, also supreme court  observed that right to life also includes the pollution-free air and the water.


Human rights and environmental laws are interlinked to each other, both go hand in hand. Failure to protect a healthy environment evidently affects the full enjoyment of human rights. The relation of human rights and environmental laws helps in sustainable development and also strengths the human rights system which also enables to widen the scope of human rights protection in areas of the environment as well. Both human rights and environmental laws are interlinked as human rights are only protected if environmental laws are protected.  A proposal was made in the 186th report of the law commission of India in order to constitute an environment court which deals in matters of the environment. The need of the hour is the creation of more environment courts in different parts of the country. So, that the pending cases before environmental courts can be solved as well as to provide speedy trials.

Author(s) Name: Krishan Kumar Garg (Bennett University, Greater Noida)


[1] Constitution of India, art. 14 & 16

[2] Indian Council For Enviro-Legal Action v Union of India (1996) 5 SCC 2815 SCC 281

[3] A.P. Pollution Control Board v M.V. Nayudu (1999(2) SCC 718)

[4] Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar and Ors. LNIND 1991 SC 13

[5] Constitution of India, art. 21

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