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“Zero tolerance towards pollution”

Special Correspondent

Environmental jurisprudence stems from Article 21: Judge

— Photo: R. Ravindran

GREEN GESTURE: Justice Elipe Dharma Rao of the Madras High Court planting a sapling on the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University campus on the eve of the World Environment Day on Saturday.

CHENNAI: The right to life protected under Article 21 of the Constitution is sacrosanct and is always on a high pedestal as the basic right of the citizens of the country, said Elipe Dharma Rao, Judge, Madras High Court here on Saturday.

Inaugurating a two-day national seminar on ‘Climate Change Issues and Challenges in International Environment Law,' jointly organised by Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University and the State Pollution Control Board, he said that the objective of the fundamental right under the Article 21 was to prevent deprivation of life and assured citizens the right to live with all human dignity.

Foremost among all the rights guaranteed under the Constitution was the right to life, from which flowed other rights and freedoms.

The right to life was not mere physical or animal existence but included the right to every limb or faculty through which life was enjoyed.

It signifies the right to live with basic human dignity, he said. The Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Article 21 had facilitated the emergence of an environmental jurisprudence in the country while also strengthening human rights jurisprudence.

There were numerous decisions wherein the rights to a clean environment, drinking water and a pollution-free atmosphere have been given the status of inalienable human rights and, therefore, fundamental rights of the people.

The judiciary had exhibited zero tolerance towards the menace of pollution. In fact, as a Judge sitting in the Green Bench, he had the opportunity to observe various types of frauds being perpetrated to destroy the Mother Nature for personal gains by some individuals and certain industries under the pretext of industrialisation.

A judgment in 2008 by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court, headed by Mr. Justice Rao had directed the Union Government, Tuticorin Port Trust, the Customs and the Central Pollution Control Board, Bangalore, to de-stuff the ‘municipal waste and hazardous waste' from container at the Tuticorin Port at the cost and expenditure of ITC Limited and saw to it that the cargo was re-exported to the USA, the country of origin.

In this case, due to the callous attitude of the officials of the ITC, the municipal waste had been brought into the country under the pretext of it being waste paper.

Through another judgment in April this year, the Madras High Court had permitted the State government to notify the elephant corridor in the Western Ghats in the Nilgiris and directed the resort owners and other private land owners to vacate and hand over the vacant possession of land falling within the notified corridor to the district administration authorities within three months, he said.

Gurujith Singh, Vice-Chancellor, National Law School, Guwahati, and V. Vijayakumar, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, were among those who spoke on the occasion.

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