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SC Expanded Scope of Articles 14 and 21

In News

  • The Supreme Court has expanded the scope of Articles 14 and 21 to include the “right against the adverse effects of climate change”.

Key Highlights

  • The Supreme Court was hearing a plea to protect the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) from losing its habitat due to power transmission lines.
  • The court also highlighted the interconnection between climate change and various human rights, including the right to health, indigenous rights, gender equality, and the right to development.
  • The SC has expanded the fundamental rights chapter from time to time to include various facets of a dignified existence.
  • However, this is the first time that it has included the “right against the adverse effects of climate change”.
  • The court highlighted that “States owe a duty of care to citizens to prevent harm and to ensure overall well-being”:
  • “The right to a healthy and clean environment is undoubtedly a part of this duty of care.

Rationale

  • Despite a plethora of decisions on the right to a clean environment, some decisions that recognize climate change is a serious threat and national policies that seek to combat climate change, have yet to be articulated that the people have a right against the adverse effects of climate change.
  • As the havoc caused by climate change increases year by year, it becomes necessary to articulate this as a distinct right.
  • It is recognised by Articles 14 and 21 which are important sources of the right to a clean environment and the right against the adverse effects of climate change.

About the Articles 14 and 21

  • Article 14 of the Constitution of India reads as under: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
  • Equality before the law prohibits discrimination. It is a negative concept.
  • The concept of ‘equal protection of the laws ’ requires the State to give special treatment to persons in different situations to establish equality amongst all.
  • It is positive.
  • Therefore, the necessary corollary to this would be that equals would be treated equally, whilst un-equals would have to be treated unequally.
  • Article 21 recognizes the right to life and personal liberty: It lays down that, no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • It guarantees that life or personal liberty shall not be taken away without the sanction of law. It ensures that no person can be punished or imprisoned merely at the whims of some authority. He/she may be punished only for the violation of the law.
  • By the 86th Amendment Act of the Constitution, a new article 21-A has been added after Article 21.
  • By this Amendment Act, the Right to Education has been made a Fundamental Right.

Essence

  • Fundamental Rights are enumerated in Part III from Articles 14 to 32 in the Constitution of India.
  • They provide standards of conduct, citizenship, justice, and fair play. They serve as a check on the government.
  • Various social, religious, economic, and political problems in India make Fundamental Rights important.
  • These rights are justiciable which means that if these rights are violated by the government or anyone else, the individual has the right to approach the Supreme Court or High Courts for the protection of his/her Fundamental Rights.
Do you know?

– Article 48A of the Constitution provides that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

– Clause (g) of Article 51A stipulates that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

a. These are not justiciable provisions of the Constitution but the importance of the environment, as indicated by these provisions becomes a right in other parts of the Constitution.

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