Precautionary Principle: Meaning, Features and Legal Application in India


The quest for sustainable advancement objectives is driven by policy-based arrangement and dynamic in light of logical information and upheld by ecological administration and law standards.[1] Nevertheless, the 2019 UN Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report expresses that limits on current logical sureness and understanding mean natural matters can bring up a more significant number of issues than answers. The favored environmental approach embraced in individual wards depends on using the preparatory principle. It helps the experts and professionals immediately decide whether suitable practical measures have been instituted to forestall natural debasement and harm human health.[2]

The preparatory principle is acknowledged as a central apparatus to advance a manageable turn of events and has a significant capacity at both global and public levels. It accommodates activity to turn away dangers of genuine or irreversible mischief to the climate or human wellbeing without logical assurance about that mischief and offers the ‘power to take public strategy choices covering natural security in the face of uncertainty. There is no vulnerability in the figuring of dangers, and there is no support for the prudent standard’s work. In this manner, logical exposure is at the center of the precautionary principle.[3]

Be that as it may, the global utilization of the preparatory rule is an open-finished issue. A few accept that its utilization assists settle on with bettering wellbeing and ecological choices. Others believe that utilizing the prudent standard is uncertain because of the trouble in accomplishing an agreement that reflects suitable reactions to oversee dangers, benefits, and costs.[4] In general, excessive prudence will worsen eccentric and conflicting ecological choices, contort administrative needs, smothers technological innovation, and turn around the weight of evidence reflecting vulnerability between science-based administration and the over or underuse of the conservative principle.[5]

In India, contamination produces complex ecological issues, including logical vulnerability and uncertain wellbeing hazards. These contamination matters are impacted by insufficient data, tentative proof, equivocal qualities, and public discussion. For instance, Spruijt’s investigation recognizes how such cases contrast in the level and kind of logical vulnerability, the cultural agitation they cause, and the use of the precautionary principle.[6]

The examination features the discussion concerning the particulate matter that worries the wellbeing effect of various molecule types, the entire causal systems of these wellbeing impacts, and the idea of the openness reaction relationship for different wellbeing endpoints. It might bring about fluctuating legal reactions. This vulnerability makes administration challenges for administrative and adjudicatory chiefs concerning wellbeing, prosperity, and the climate.


It’s the presence of mind thought: “Be cautious.” “Best to be as careful as possible.” The preparatory standard isn’t all-around characterized. Notwithstanding, the Science and Environmental Health Network brings up that, in all definitions of the precautionary principle, we discover three components:

  1. At the point when we have a sensible doubt of damage, and
  2. Scientific vulnerability about circumstances and logical results, at that point
  3. We must make a move to forestall hurt.


The Precautionary Principle is an instrument for improving wellbeing and ecological choices. It intends to keep hurt from the start as opposed to oversee it after the reality. The Precautionary Principle indicates an obligation to forestall damage when it is inside our ability to do as such, in any event, when all the proof isn’t in. To put it plainly, “the precautionary principle is a thought which supports making a defensive move before there is finished logical confirmation of danger that is- an activity ought not to be deferred just because full analytical data is inadequate.”

In straightforward terms, the Precautionary Principle passes on the sound judgment based counsel to decide in favor of alert. The standard plans to forestall mischief to people, the climate, and the eco-framework on the loose. Before taking a gander at a portion of the generally utilized meanings of the Precautionary Principle, it is useful to comprehend the specific situation and reasoning. When the effects of a particular movement, for example, an emanation of dangerous substances, are not apparent, the overall assumption is to release the exercises ahead until the vulnerability is settled totally. The Precautionary Principle counters such broad assumptions. When there is a vulnerability concerning an action’s effects, the Precautionary Principle advocates activity to foresee and deflect natural mischief. In this manner, the Precautionary Principle favors observing, forestalling, and additionally alleviating unsure expected dangers.


The Precautionary Principle addresses a change in perspective in dynamic. It takes into account five key components that can forestall irreversible harm to individuals and nature:

1. Expectant Action: There is an obligation to make an anticipatory move to forestall hurt. Government, business, and local gatherings, just as the overall population, share this obligation.

2. Right to Know: “The people group has an option to know total and exact data on possible human wellbeing and ecological impacts related to the determination of items,” administrations, tasks, or plans. The weight to supply this data lies with the defender, not with the overall population.

3. Other Assessment: A commitment exists to analyze a full scope of options and select the option with the most unexpected effect on human wellbeing and the climate, including the possibility of sitting idle.

4. Full Cost Accounting: When assessing expected other options, there is an obligation to think about all the sensibly predictable expenses, including crude materials, fabricating, transportation, use, cleanup, inevitable removal, and wellbeing costs regardless of whether such costs are not reflected in the underlying charge. Short and long haul advantages and time limits ought to be thought about when deciding.

5. Participatory Decision Process: Decisions applying the Precautionary The standard should be straightforward, participatory, and educated by the best accessible science and other pertinent data.


The Apex Court of India’s role in perceiving the preparatory principle as a fundamental component of sustainable development of events and a piece of worldwide common law advanced its subsidiary application from sacred commands to be specific Articles 21, 48A, and 51A(g).[7] In 1996, Kuldip Singh J in Vellore Citizen Government assistance Forum v Union of India[8] proclaimed that the standard includes three conditions:

(1) State government and legal specialists should envision, forestall and assault the reasons for environmental corruption;

(2) Where there are dangers of genuine and irreversible harm, absence of logical assurance ought not to be utilized as an explanation behind delaying measures to forestall ecological corruption;

(3) The ‘onus of confirmation’ is on the entertainer or designer, or industrialist to show the activities are earth considerate.

Furthermore, the particular ecological court, NGT, is a production of a resolution; its ward, powers also, systems are understood and applied by the language of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

The NGTinterprets and applies the preparatory rule as ordered by Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The NGT pronounced the prudent rule to be a vital piece of public natural law: The relevance of the prudent rule is a legal order to the Tribunal while choosing or, on the other hand, settling debates emerging out of generous inquiries identifying with the climate. Hence, any infringement or even a caught infringement of this guideline would be noteworthy by any individual before the Tribunal. Inaction in the current realities and conditions of a given case could itself be an infringement of the prudent principle, hence bringing it inside the ambit of the Tribunal’s purview, as characterized under the NGT Act 2010.

The NGT sees the preparatory rule as a determinative standard that permits the adjudicators to look at the likelihood of ecological corruption and come about mischief from a proposed movement. This includes very much logical information supporting safeguard and denial of damage and an obligation to manage risks.[9] Actuate precautionary measures, activities depend on analytic data and investigation of potential dangers to human wellbeing and climate, but speculative, uncertain, or contested. Speculative, uncertain, or questioned logical data makes vulnerability corresponding to holes in information and then again helpless information, obliviousness, defective models, logical irregularity, and the difference in the idea of danger with the low epistemic edge of proof tend towards hazard prevention.[10]

The accessibility of legitimacy audit to the NGT advances the legal use of the rule. As a legitimacy court, the NGT turns into the paramount chief and can attempt inside and out an investigation that includes law and the specialized assessment supporting a decision. The preparatory rule is conjured and followed by legal and master individuals as a regularizing responsibility. It subsequently coordinates the judges, especially the specialized master judges, to offer deductively based prior arrangements and strategies that react innovatively to powerless, insufficient guidelines even without a guideline. Reception of an assortment of systems, including investigative, partner consultation, and arrangement of particular committees, helps utilize the preparatory rule.

This improves dynamic investment through discourse, contention, and standards for inspiring genuine real factors and master information to react to ecological issues. Master individuals by on-spot site review can assess conflicting cases, positions, and reports recorded by the parties. The partner consultative interaction is relevant to instances of more extensive consequences, including significant issues including waterway cleaning and air pollution.[11] The particular boards advance the experts’ responsibility to use the standards under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

Along these lines, India’s preparatory standard commands decided to use for noticing, forestalling, and moderating expected dangers. Without a doubt, current danger factors have gotten more perplexing, broad, and unfavorably influence general wellbeing and the climate. The rule is utilized as an instrument inside Indian ecological administration to advance better wellbeing and natural choices. Nonetheless, the guideline is questionable and hard to apply because of its irregularity (regulating perspectives) and misapplication (legal norm of evidence). In the fourth area, these issues are tended to in the Indian setting.


Applying the precautionary principle will get simpler to set course for a general public, which is portrayed by the practical turn of events. Reasonably using the rule implies that various conditions are to be met. Above all else, when the guideline is utilized, its significance and degree are to be explained. A definition is to be introduced. This will forestall disarray and novel understandings, for example, the one given to preventive measures by the Commission concerning the French atomic tests.

Concerning the (restrictions too) the extent of the standard, the accompanying can be said. When the cost-effectiveness criterium is applied, it is perceived as a proportionality test as the more genuine the potential harms could be, the more ought to be done to keep them from coming into being. As the preparatory guideline applies in circumstances where it isn’t sure ahead of time how high the harms will be, the expense adequacy test can not imply that conviction is accomplished precisely how realistic the estimates will be.

[1] UN Sustainable Development Goals Report (2019) 58. Available at:

[2] H.S. Burnett, ‘Understanding the Precautionary Principle and its Threat to Human Welfare’ (2009) 26(2) Social Philosophy and Policy 378–410; K. Steele, ‘The Precautionary Principle: A New Approach to Public Decision-Making?’, (2006) 5 Law, Probability and Risk 19–31.

[3] R. von Schomberg, ‘The Precautionary Principle: Its Use Within Hard and Soft Law’ (2012) 3(2) European Journal of Risk Regulation 147–156.

[4] For a detailed discussion, see European Commission Science for Environment Policy, FUTURE BRIEF: The Precautionary Principle: Decision-Making Under Uncertainty, (2017: Issue 18). Available at:

[5]European Commission (2017) at 6–7; D.C. Peterson, ‘Precaution: Principles and Practice in Australian Environmental and Natural Resource Management (2006) 50 The Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 469–489.

[6] P. Spruijt, A.B. Knol, A.C. Petersen and E. Lebret, ‘Expert Views on Their Role as Policy Advisors: Pilot Study for the Cases of Electromagnetic Fields, Particulate Matter, and Antimicrobial Resistance’ (2019) 39(5) Risk Analysis 968–974.

[7] Article 21 of the Constitution of India states: ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law’. Article 48A obligates the state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’.

[8] Vellore Citizen’s Welfare Forum v Union of India (1996) 5 SCC 647 at 658.

[9] For a detailed discussion, see G.N. Gill, Environmental Justice in India: The National Green Tribunal (Routledge, UK, 2016) 121–127

[10] G.N. Gill, ‘The National Green Tribunal of India: Decision-Making, Scientific Expertise and Uncertainty’ (2017) 29(2–3) Environmental Law and Management 82–88.

[11] K.K. Singh v National Ganga River Basin Authority Judgment 16 October 2014; Manoj Mishra v Union of India Judgment 13 January 2015 (referred to as the Maily se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalization Plan 2017); Vardhama Kaushik v Union of India and Sanjay Kulshrestha v Union of India Order 7 April 2015.

This article has been authored by Anulekha M, Final Year B.A LLB Student at Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University.

Law Corner