The Rule of Law
EXCERPTS FROM LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS IN
THE FIELD OF ENVIRONMENT
INDIA: Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar
The right to life enshrined in Article 21 (of the Indian Constitution), includes the right to enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for the full enjoyment of life. If anything endangers or impairs the quality of life, an affected person or a person genuinely interested in the protection of society would have recourse to Article 32. Public interest litigation envisages legal proceedings for vindication or enforcement of fundamental rights of a group of persons or community which are not able to enforce their fundamental rights on account of their incapacity, poverty or ignorance of law.
PHILIPPINES: Juan Antonio Oposa and others v the Honourable Fulgencio S. Factoran and another
As matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the well-founded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as State policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the State a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life.
PAKISTAN: Ms Shehla Zia and others v Wapda
Where life of citizens is degraded, the quality of life is adversely affected and health hazards are created affecting a large number of people, the Supreme Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Art. 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan may grant relief to the extent of stopping such activities that create pollution and environmental degradation.
INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
Legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, advisory opinion
The environment is not an abstraction but represents the living space, the quality of life and the very health of human beings, including generations unborn. The existence of the general obligation of States to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control respect the environment of other States or of areas beyond national control is now part of the corpus of international law relating to the environment.
Case concerning the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros project (Hungary/Slovakia)
Throughout the ages, mankind has, for economic and other reasons, constantly interfered with nature. In the past, this was often done without consideration of the effects upon the environment. Owing to new scientific insights and to a growing awareness of the risks for mankind for present and future generations of pursuit of such interventions at an unconsidered and unabated pace, new norms and standards have been developed, and set forth in a great number of instruments during the last two decades. Such new norms have to be taken into consideration, and such new standards given proper weight, not only when States contemplate new activities but also when continuing with activities begun in the past. This need to reconcile economic development with protection of the environment is aptly expressed in the concept of sustainable development.