Legislation that Enable Checks and Balances by the People
Courts support a vigilant public
The Constitution of India guarantees every citizen the fundamental right to life and personal
liberty. Under Article 48 (A) of the Constitution, the State of India is also required to
endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of
the country. The Constitution also makes it 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.
The fundamental Right to Life is guaranteed under Article
states that No person shall be deprived of his life or
except according to the procedure established by law.
two decades, this Article has undergone progressive
include a number of rights, which interpret the right to life
in the broadest sense.
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment (Francis
Coralie vs. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi
and others, AIR 1981)
observed We think that the Right
to Life includes the right to live with human dignity and
all that goes along with it
. The magnitude and content
the components of this right would depend upon the extent
of development of the country, but it must, in any view of
the matter, include the right to the basic necessities of life . This now includes the right to
clean and hygienic environment and above all, the right to live with basic dignity.
Over the years, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has become one of the most important tools
of legal aid and has served to bring justice in many cases involving social and
environmental concerns. Under a PIL, any public-spirited individual or group can move
the court of law (under Article 226 of the Constitution for High Courts, and Article 32 for
the Supreme Court) in case of breach of any fundamental right, to seek judicial redressal.
The PIL is a form of writ petition which can be filed by anybody, even if he or she is not
directly affected by the perceived injustice. This has enabled environmentally-conscious,
public-spirited individuals or groups, which are not an aggrieved party, to have easy access
to the highest court of the nation. PILs become a collaborative effort between the
petitioner, State or public authority, and the court, to redress the breach of a fundamental
right. The Supreme Court has played a pro-active role in enhancing the use of PILs. It has
simplified technical procedures to encourage more grievances to be addressed through this
mechanism. It has relaxed the requirement of a formal writ to seek redress. Any member of
the public can move the court for a social cause even through a letter, which would be
entertained as a writ petition by the court. Moreover, the fees in the case of a writ petition
are very nominal.
Right to Life
A Useful Tool