Monday, 28 May 2018

Whether right to health includes right to breathe unpolluted air?

 The right to breathe clean air is a recognized right under our Constitution. Learned Counsel for the Petitioners drew our attention to paragraphs 16 and 17 of Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India MANU/SC/0686/1996 : (1996) 5 SCC 647 which read as follows:

The constitutional and statutory provisions protect a person's right to fresh air, clean water and pollution-free environment, but the source of the right is the inalienable common law right of clean environment. It would be useful to quote a paragraph from Blackstone's commentaries on the Laws of England (Commentaries on the Laws of England of Sir William Blackstone) Vol. III, fourth edition published in 1876. Chapter XIII, "Of Nuisance" depicts the law on the subject in the following words:

Also, if a person keeps his hogs, or other noisome animals, or allows filth to accumulate on his premises, so near the house of another, that the stench incommodes him and makes the air unwholesome, this is an injurious nuisance, as it tends to deprive him of the use and benefit of his house. A like injury is, if one's neighbour sets up and exercises any offensive trade; as a tanner's, a tallow-chandler's, or the like; for though these are lawful and necessary trades, yet they should be exercised in remote places; for the Rule is, 'sic utere tuo, ut alienum non laedas'; this therefore is an actionable nuisance. And on a similar principle a constant ringing of bells in one's immediate neighbourhood may be a nuisance.

... With regard to other corporeal hereditaments; it is a nuisance to stop or divert water that used to run to another's meadow or mill; to corrupt or poison a watercourse, by erecting a dye-house or a lime-pit, for the use of trade, in the upper part of the stream; to pollute a pond, from which another is entitled to water his cattle; to obstruct a drain; or in short to do any act in common property, that in its consequences must necessarily tend to the prejudice of one's neighbour. So closely does the law of England enforce that excellent Rule of gospel-morality, of 'doing to others, as we would they should do unto ourselves'.

Our legal system having been founded on the British common law the right of a person to a pollution-free environment is a part of the basic jurisprudence of the land.

67. The right to health coupled with the right to breathe clean air leaves no manner of doubt that it is important that air pollution deserves to be eliminated and one of the possible methods of reducing it during Diwali is by continuing the suspension of licences for the sale of fireworks and therefore implicitly, prohibiting the bursting of fireworks.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

I.A. No. 52448 of 2017 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 728 of 2015 (Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India)

Decided On: 12.09.2017

 Arjun Gopal and Ors. Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ.

Citation:(2017) 16 SCC280.
Read full judgment : Click here



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