Prashant Vaxish

Prashant Vaxish

Environment Protection: Dharma and Duty

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It is pertinent that every citizen, person and in toto a human being is entrusted with a duty not only towards other human beings, but also to his surroundings, nature as well as Environment in its entirety.

Thus, on the occasion of International Earth Day, it is not only viable but an inherent dharma which every Bhartiya (natives of the Republic of India) have been entrusted & entitled for, which is- the protection, preservation and improvement of the Environment.

It is noticeable that Environment Protection in India has been recognised as an integral and fundamental right under the garb of Article-21 of the Indian Constitution, on the lines of the Western Civilisations by virtue of Judicial Activism exercised to develop the Right’s oriented Environmental Jurisprudence. But, it is of utmost importance to note here that Indians are the ones who from the inception of their civilisation has prompted & upheld the principles of Duty or Dharma, which are unequivocally strengthened by the Holy scriptures of every religion and actions of the Indians in the earlier stage of development which dates back to many centuries ago, accounts for their closeness, empathy and spiritual bond to love the nature and respect the same.

Before going to the duty-bound aspect of Environment Protection, which Indians have flourished & shown the entire world that it is not the right which you exercise over the Environment, but it the duty by which you can protect and preserve the Environment. We will have a glance at the genesis of object & purpose behind observing 22nd April each year as Earth Day!


Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.

On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honour the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the National Coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day.” Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. The first Earth Day was focused on the United States. In 1990, Denis Hayes, the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international and organized events in 141 nations.


It is rightly posed, quoted and stated that, India always remained a country which preached values, norms and collective duty supreme to that of individualistic norms and individual rights, which is the prime categorisation & feature of the west.

Indian scriptures ranging from Vedas, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Holy Bible, Holy Quran, Holy Guru Granth Sahib, Upanishads etc. provides a systematic code of conduct, which if adhered will make Earth not only a better place, but will also inculcate a sense of respect, protection and preservation of this beautiful gift of God!

Here, for the perusal of the readers a consolidation of all the Environmental Protection verses, Shabad’s, Ayat’s etc.

The Hindu Culture: Showcasing Environment Sensitive Approach through Holy Scriptures

The oldest religion of the world which has surely set out to lead a way of life, which is not only soothing for the individual but also has sense of brotherhood, sacrifice, peace, love and compassion for other creatures and Environment as well.

The Vedas: Revolving around the concept of Nature and Life

In Ancient India, Protection and Cleaning Up of Environment was the essence Of Vedic Culture in Hindu Philosophy Forests, Trees and Wildlife Protection Held A Place of Special Respect. Cutting Green Trees Was Prohibited and Punishment Was Prescribed for Such Acts. The Vedas Attach Great Importance to Environmental Protection and Purity. They Persist on Safeguarding the Habitation, Proper Afforestation and Non-Pollution. In Fact, Man Is Forbidden from Exploiting Nature. He Is Taught to Live in Harmony with Nature and Recognize That Divinity Prevails in All Elements, Including Plants and Animals. The Rishis of The Past Have Always Had A Great Respect for Nature

Rig Veda

“Thousands and Hundreds of Years If You Want to Enjoy the Fruits and Happiness of Life Then Take Up Systematic Planting of Trees.”

“Do Not Harm the Environment; Do Not Harm the Water and The Flora; Earth Is My Mother, I Am Her Son; May the Waters Remain Fresh, Do Not Harm the Waters”; “Do Not Cut Trees, Because They Remove Pollution.”

(Rig Veda, 6:48:17)

The waters in the’ sky, the waters of rivers, and water in the wellwhose source is the ocean, may all these sacred waters protect me” (Rig-Veda 7.49.2)

(Rig-Veda 7.49.2)

Yajur Veda

“Do Not Disturb the Sky and Do Not Pollute the Atmosphere.” (Yajur Veda,5:43)

Caraka wrote about Vikrti (pollution) and disease, he mentioned air pollution specifically as a cause of many diseases (Caraka Samhita, Vimanastanam III 6:1.9)

“A person, who is engaged in killing creatures, polluting wells, and ponds and tanks, and destroying gardens, certainly goes to hell” (Padmapurana, Bhoomikhananda 96:7-8).

Moreover, Hinduism Recognizes That the Human Body Is Composed of And Related to These Five Elements, And Connects Each of The Elements to One Of The Five Senses. The Human Nose Is Related to Earth, Tongue to Water, Eyes to Fire, Skin to Air and Ears to Space. This Link Between Our Senses and The Elements Is the Foundation of Our Human Relationship with The Natural World. For Hinduism, Nature and The Environment Are Not Outside Us. They Are an Inseparable Part of Our Existence.

A Quote From Vishnu Purana States:

As The Wide-Spreading Nargodha (Sanskrit For Banyan) Tree Is Compressed In A Small Seed, So At The Time Of Dissolution, The Whole Universe Is Comprehended In Thee As Its Germ; As The Nargodha Germinates From The Seed, And Becomes Just A Shoot And Then Rises Into Loftiness, So The Created World Proceeds From Thee And Expands Into Magnitude.”

The Varah Purana Says,

“One Who Plants One Peepal, One Neem, One Bar, Ten Flowering Plants or Creepers, Two Pomegranates, Two Oranges and Five Mangos, Does Not Go to Hell.”

Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagvad Gita: The Guiding Principles at the touchstone of Environment Protection

The Epic Ramayana tells that when Ravana faced a calamity, he states: … “I Have Not Cut Down Any Fig Tree in The Month of Vaisakha, Why Then Does This Calamity Befall Me? This Serves as A Good Example to Illustrate How Hindus Respected Trees Which Constituted A Large Part of Our Environment.”

In the Words of The Ancient Immemorial Indian Poet, Kalidasa:

“The Himalaya Is A Great Devatma, A Great Spiritual Presence, Stretching from The West to The Eastern Sea Like A Measuring Rod to Gauge the World’s Greatness.”

The Mahabharata Hints That the Basic Elements of Nature Constitute the Cosmic Being — The Mountains His Bones, The Earth His Flesh, The Sea His Blood, The Sky His Abdomen, The Air His Breath and Agni (Fire) His Energy. The Whole Emphasis of The Ancient Hindu Scriptures Is That Human Beings Cannot Separate Themselves from Natural Surroundings and Earth Has the Same Relationship with Man as The Mother with Her Child.

“The Purchaser of Flesh Performs Himsa (Violence) By His Wealth; He Who Eats Flesh Does So by Enjoying Its Taste; The Killer Does Himsa By Actually Tying and Killing the Animal. Thus, There Are Three Forms of Killing: He Who Brings Flesh or Sends for It, He Who Cuts Off the Limbs of An Animal, And He Who Purchases, Sells or Cooks Flesh and Eats It – All of These Are to Be Considered Meat-Eaters.” – The Mahabharata

Bhagavad Gita also contain Many References to The Omnipresence of The Supreme Divinity, Including Its Presence Throughout and Within Nature. In Sloka 20, Chapter 10, Lord Krishna Says, “I Am the Self Seated in The Heart of All Creatures. I Am the Beginning, The Middle and The Very End of All Beings”. All Beings Have, Therefore to Be Treated Alike.” In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna Compares the World to A Single Banyan Tree with Unlimited Branches in Which All the Species of Animals, Humans and Demigods Wander. Indian Consciousness Is Full of Trees and Forests. Various Trees, Fruits and Plants Have Special Significance in Hindu Ritual. Hindu Religious Scripts, Stories, And Rituals Have Attempted to Drive Home the Importance of Preserving Nature by Deifying It Through the Centuries.

Lord Krishna Says in The Bhagavad Gita (9.26):

“Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam, Yo Mey Bhaktya Prayachchati Tadaham Bhakt Yupahrutam Asnaami Prayataatmanaha” (I Accept A Leaf, Flower, Fruit or Water or Whatever Is Offered with Devotion the Coconut Tree and The Coconut Are Sacred and Are Offered to God During Worship. Mango Leaves Are Used as Festoons During Pujas and Auspicious Events).

In the case of the Hindu religion, which is practiced as dharma – way of life – many of its precepts became ingrained in the daily life and social institutions of the people which guide them, bind them and make them responsible for any ill happening to the Environment.

In the light of the same it is emphasised that the Holy Bible, Holy Quran, Hadis & Sunnah, and Holy Guru Granth Sahib also unequivocally quotes about the duty of the Individuals, Society and Community for Preserving as well as Protecting the Environment to its fullest and lays down numerous Verses, Narratives and Shabads, respectively on the same line and similar to as that of the Hindu Religious Texts, described above.

Further, the punishment was also prescribed for not abiding to the duty of protection, preservation and improvement of Environment, that has added to the careful exploitation and taking care of the Environment, due to the fear of punishment, on account of which the duties were enforced.


Right from the beginning it is highlighted that the Rights oriented approach towards which the evolution and development of Environmental Jurisprudence has taken, per se neither was seen as proper nor effective because of the sole reason that it can only be enforced if someone’s Rights are violated which has certainly caused some damage or injury and thereby when they approach the Court either on the pretext of Locus Standi or through Public Interest Litigation, which may be appropriate in different cases, but certainly not in the cases of Environmental Protection.

This contention owes its allegiance to the factum that Environment is not boundary stricken or territorial in nature, thus it cannot be said that if a person has been injured or harmed due to Environmental Degradation then the immediate State will be responsible for the punishment or liable to compensate, rather it is every individual and constituents of the biosphere who are responsible for it and for the sake of the same, duty oriented approach should be adhered whereby everyone shall be casted upon the responsibility and the law should make these duty enforceable at the instance of all against that person who deviates from it for which special officers from the society itself be designated and for the time being if law is not there, then this role should be carried out by our infallible Judiciary, who at many occasions have stepped in to protect our Environment, as when Executive and Legislative Branch are lethargic in carrying out their respective functions for the same.

In this context it is pertinent to mention the upcoming jurisprudence which will take us back to the times when DHARMA superseded the RIGHTS, and where the latter has got no reference in the ancient India despite of which best techniques for Environmental Protection was exercised, which the present generation has lost in the wake of Western Approach of Rights (that has resulted in American, French, Russian Revolution) but neither happened or took place in India which is of great significance to quote in this respect.

  • Constitutional Mandate for Environmental Protection: From the inception seeing it as a duty-oriented responsibility

If we precisely analyse our Indian Constitution, then the words of Austin be quoted at first instance to highlight how our Constitution be interpreted,

“Austin saw in our Constitution Three strands- Protecting and enhancing national unity and integrity, Establishing institutions of Democracy and Fostering social reforms.

Taken together, he writes, they form a seamless web. But yet lurking in the distance, there is an omnipresent fourth strand, CULTURE!”

Thus, taking culture and concept of Dharma (duty oriented approach) the Indian Constitution has expressly quoted provisions in respect of Environment Protection in Part IV and IVA (Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties) and not in Part III (which with advent of Judicial Activism & Development of Environmental Jurisprudence was made implicit part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) which clearly showcases the true intent of the Constituent Assembly, that the Environment can only be protected not seeing it as a concept of Right, but as of eternal duty.

The provisions in the Indian Constitution, which specifically talks about the Environment Protection are as follows:

Part IV: Directive Principles of State Policy

  • Article 47- “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and improvement of public health as among its primary duties.”
  • Article 48A- “Protection and Improvement of Environment and safeguarding of Forests and Wildlife. – The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”

Part IVA: Fundamental Duties

  • Article 51A(g)- “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.”
  • Article 51A(j)- “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievements.”

Moreover, it is also of great significance to quote that expressly Part IV of the Indian Constitution is neither enforceable nor justiciable by virtue of Article 37 which states,

“The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforced by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.”

The aforementioned similar express rider for enforceability is absent for Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Indian Constitution and this silent move on the part of the Constituent Assembly has many times raised an issue as to who shall be made liable, punished, compensated for and compensated by in the matters pertaining to Environmental Pollution and Degradation.

Further, as to the justiciable nature of Fundamental Duties, there exists contradictory views among various High Courts, as well as in the Supreme Court as well. This contradiction of views to uphold the pious duty to preserve & Protect the Environment and rise of the Environmental Degradation in past 10 decades (after the Industrial Evolution) coupled with lack of responsibility on the part of Executive and Legislature has obliged the Judicial Organ of the Government to step-in while exercising the Judicial Activism, by bringing this duty to Protect Environment be recognised under Part III of the Indian Constitution, for the basic reason that Constitution of India very well provides for a systematic machinery for effective enforcement of Rights and thus, this was only the way by which this duty could be enforced for the protection, preservation and improvement of Environment by manifesting it as a Right, but in reality Environment Protection was and is and in future shall be a DHARMA and DUTY casted upon everyone. So, to say it owes a nature as that of a Right, categorically would go wrong.


Thus, every day, every occasion and every moment in India is cherished, observed and  celebrated as Earth Day because right from the beginning or inception of life we are taught to respect Environment, as God rests in each of them and we grow with the learning that when you will pray, protect and respect the mother nature, it will bloom your life with happiness, joy and success.

Therefore, going back to the concept of Dharma and imbibing those core principles which are enshrined in the Holy scriptures is the need of the hour, for making India to be called as the ‘GOLDEN BIRD OF THE WORLD’ who has paved way for the world to explore the path of collective development, by marching in the forefront of all!

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् | उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ||

(महोपनिषद्, अध्याय ४, श्‍लोक ७१)

Environment connotes to our surroundings, whereas Earth connotes to the ‘Community Heritage’ of the mankind. It is vehemently quoted that Environment doesn’t have any boundary nor is termed as territorial, but is a common platform making Earth a small place.

As the slogan of ‘Vasudev Kutumbhkam’ unequivocally shows that mankind is a collective entity of Environment, so any damage or destruction caused at one end of the Earth, could make mankind feel its effect on the other opposite part of the same.

Therefore, as collective effort is required to preserve the Earth, so does the joint effort as well as suffering may be caused due to actions of any, as can be noticed in the present situation of Covid-19 PANDEMIC!

– Assisted by Harshit Sharma, 5th Year, B.A., LL.B.(Hons.), Amity Law School, Amity University Madhya Pradesh.
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