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U.N. General Assembly Resolution on World Charter for Nature, 1982. T

he Stockholm Declaration accepted the “assimilative capacity” rule which assumed that the environment could assimilate impacts and science could provide the necessary information and technology to deal with environmental degradation. The World Charter for Nature shifted the emphasis, which came to be known and accepted in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992 as the Precautionary Principle. This principle is based on the ‘lack of full scientific certainty’. The basic idea behind this principle is that it is better “to err on the side of caution and prevent activities that may cause serious or irreversible harm. An informed decision can be made at a later stage when additional data is available or resources permit further research.”Significantly, the Supreme Court recognized that environmental concerns are as important as human rights concerns. It was said, “In fact, both are to be traced to Article 21 which deals with the fundamental right to life and liberty. While environmental aspects concern “life”, human rights aspects concern “liberty”. In our view, in the context of emerging jurisprudence relating to environmental matters, – as is the case in matters relating to human rights, – it is the duty of this Court to render justice by taking all aspects into consideration.” In view of certain technical matters involved in this case, the Supreme Court resorted to the provisions of the National Environmental Appellate Authority Act, 1997 and referred two questions for its opinion. After obtaining the report of the Appellate Authority and considering it along with two other reports, the Supreme Court applied the Precautionary Principle and passed appropriate orders.

In Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, precautionary principle came to be considered by the majority of judges. The Court also took the view that the doctrine is to be employed only in cases of pollution when its impact is uncertain and non-negligible.

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, the Supreme Court once again followed the path of sustainable development and directed that the industries operating in Taj Trapezium Zone using a coke/coal as industrial fuel must stop functioning and they could relocate to the alternate site provided under the Agra Master Plan. It further stated that not even 1% chance could be taken when human life a part, the preservation of a prestigious monument like the Taj was involved.

In Shobha Rama Subramanayyam v. The Member Secretary, Chennai Metropolitan Authority, The Court stated that the construction builders have a duty to use modes for digging foundation for multistory buildings, so that it does not cause noise pollution in the neighboring areas.

In S. Jagannath v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that sea beaches and sea coasts are gifts of nature and any activity polluting the same cannot be permitted. The intensified shrimp (prawn) farming culture industry by modern method in coastal areas was causing degradation of mangrove ecosystem, depletion of plantation discharge of highly polluting effluents and pollution of potable as well as ground water