Structure and Role of Indian Government in Environmental Protection

In recent years, the world has collectively seen heaps of advancements taking place. A greater focus had been placed on globalization and industrialization, which were occurring at an inordinate rate; but massive changes were not only being felt in this front, they were also being felt in the environment.

The rapid advancements meant clearing out large land masses through the excessive felling of trees, harming the rivers and oceans, etc. The environment was being destroyed at a rapid rate; curbing such demolition of the world’s powerhouse and ensuring that the environment remains healthy lies in the hands of the Government. It is the Government’s responsibility to hold corporations accountable for the part they have played in the degradation of the environment. As global warming and climate change start to become more imminent threats to the entire world, the role of the Government in protecting nature & environment against all kinds of threats – garbage pollution, carbon pollution, etc. – will become more apparent than ever.


In most of the countries around the world, it is the executive and legislative branches of the Government that place their focus and work on environmental issues. In India, such is not the case. In India, it is the highest court and the supreme judicial body of the Indian Government – The Supreme Court – which usually takes cognizance of environmental issues. The Supreme Court of India is directly involved in understanding and implementing new changes in environmental jurisprudence. It is the Supreme Court of India which has worked on implementing and addressing policies and laws in relation to environmental protection. It is since the 1980s that the Supreme Court has been engaged in the various environmental issues prevalent in India. It is mainly the Supreme Court that has worked extensively on laws and policies relating to environmental protection; including, but not limited to, introducing principles, statutes, institutions, etc. The Supreme Court includes specific details and directorial actions as well. [1]

But it is not solely the Supreme Court of India that takes cognizance of such environmental matters. High Courts in several different states take action as well as play an important role in the enforcing of policies and laws related to environmental issues. As both the Supreme Court and High Courts come under the purview of both the Central and State Governments, it can be said that environmental protection is the responsibility of the Government on a Central and State level.


Although on a broader level, every single citizen must aid in environmental protection, it is still the Government’s responsibility to uphold certain norms and regulations to make sure that the planet is able to retain nature in its purest form in order to flourish. There are various international conventions, treaties & protocols based on the environment – such as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), etc.; but these international bodies can simply act as regulating bodies – it is the Government’s job to act as an enforcing body at the end of the day.

The Government is a crucial body in environmental protection. The Government does so by implementing and enforcing policies and laws for the benefit of the environment. Moreover, they also monitor environmental issues. In India, specifically, environmental protection comes within the ambit of governments on two levels – Central and State; the Constitution of India states the responsibility and the scope of the Central and State Governments towards environmental protection. There are a few legislations[2] relating to the environmental policies of the Government of India as well:

Article 48A of DPSP: Article 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) says, “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”

Article 51A – Fundamental Duties: Article 51 of part VIA of the Constitution of India deals with the Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens. It states, “it shall be 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 Government has implemented several policies and plans in order to ensure environmental protection. A lot of these laws and policies underwent changes and modifications after India became one of the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) treaty,[3] which aims at conserving biodiversity, and is often seen as the main document regarding sustainable development.



This is an Act of the Parliament of India, which was enacted in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy by the government of India under Article 253 of the Constitution. The Environment Protection Act was introduced as “An Act to provide for protection and improvement of the environment and for matters connected therewith.” The purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. They relate to the protection and improvement of the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property. The Act is an “umbrella” legislation designed to provide a framework for central government coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water Act and the Air Act.[4]


The National Environment Policy (NEP) established by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) aims at mainstreaming environmental concerns into all developmental activities. It emphasizes conservation of resources and the main objectives of this policy are to tackle the key environmental challenges that India faces due to environmental degradation, these challenges are intrinsically connected with that state of the environmental resources such as land, water, air, and the surrounding flora and fauna. The objectives of the policy also include: “Intra-generational equity, livelihood security for the poor and the integration of environmental concerns in economic and social development.”[5]


The National Conservation Strategy and the Policy Statement on Environment and Development is in response to the need for laying down the guidelines that will help to weave environmental considerations into the fabric of our national life and of our development process. The goals are:  “to ensure sustainable and equitable use of resources to meet the basic needs of the present and future generations without causing damage to the environment, to prevent and control future deterioration in land, water and air which are our primary life support systems and to take steps for restoration of ecologically degraded areas, for environmental improvement in our rural and urban settlements.” [6]


The Biological Diversity Act addresses access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge to ensure a fair sharing of benefits arising from their use to the country and its citizens. Some of the provisions of the Act include: “regulation of collection and use of biodiversity by Indian nationals, while exempting local communities from such restrictions, setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees, etc.” [7]


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established under the National Green Tribunal Act, which was implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The NGT was formed to act as a stand-alone Court for matters relating solely to the environment. It is a specialized body which is provisioned to take care of environmental disputes also involving multi-disciplinary issues. [8]


These are just a few of the many policies, legislations and rules imposed by the Government. There are many more that hold an equal amount of importance in the protection of the environment. It is the responsibility of the Government to be a strict regulator and ensure that these policies and laws are being followed all across the nation. Hence, the Government plays a core role in the protection of the environment. All policies relating to the environment must be passed in the Government. As the environment goes through more and more degradation, it will be up to the Government to ensure that more stringent rules are followed, which will be in the best interest of the environment.  


[1] Implications of Indian Supreme Court’s Innovations for Environmental Jurisprudence available at: (last visited October 04, 2020)

[2] India: Environmental Laws in India available at: (last visited on October 16, 2020)

[3]  India submits Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) available at:,on%20Biological%20Diversity%20(CBD)%20.&text=Harsh%20Vardhan%2Csaid%20that%20India,NR6%20to%20the%20CBD%20Secretariat. (last visited on October 17, 2020)

[4] The Environmental Protection Act, 1986 available at: (last visited October 01, 2020)

[5] National Environment Policy available at:,National%20Environment%20Policy%20(NEP)%20%2D%20Ministry,of%20Environment%20and%20Forests%20(2006)&text=A%20document%20that%20emphasizes%20on,and%20equity%20of%20natural%20resources.&text=It%20argues%20that%20environmental%20degradation,poor%20health%20outcomes%20among%20populations (last visited October 

[6] National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992 available at: (last visited on October 03, 2020)

[7] The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 available at: (last visited October 03, 2020)

[8] The National Green Tribunal Act available at: (last visited October 03, 2020)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *