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Supreme Court Judgment: Climate & Right to Life



  Apr 11, 2024

Supreme Court Judgment: Climate & Right to Life



What does the Supreme Court’s judgment say about climate change and fundamental rights?

The Supreme Court of India has expanded the interpretation of fundamental rights to include the right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change. This decision aligns the fight against climate change with the constitutional rights to life and equality, as enshrined in Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. This recognition places the issue of climate change within the legal framework of fundamental human rights in India.

How does this judgment affect climate action in India?

By acknowledging the right to a clean environment as part of the right to life, the judgment mandates state responsibility towards climate action. This implies that policies and measures that address climate change are not just administrative or policy choices but constitutional obligations. The judgment could lead to more stringent enforcement of environmental regulations and proactive measures to combat climate change.

What was the specific case that led to this judgment?

The judgment came in a case concerning the protection of two critically endangered bird species, the great Indian bustard (GIB) and the lesser florican. These species are threatened by various factors, including climate change and habitat destruction. The case highlighted the conflict between conservation efforts and infrastructure development, specifically relating to the impact of overhead transmission lines on these species.

What are the implications for conservation and development projects?

The Court’s judgment modifies previous directives concerning the undergrounding of power lines, recognizing the technical and economic challenges of such measures. It underscores a balance between conservation efforts and the necessity of harnessing renewable energy, reflecting a nuanced approach to development and environmental protection. This may influence future projects, especially in ecologically sensitive areas, to consider innovative solutions that accommodate both conservation and development goals.

How does this judgment align with international climate commitments?

India’s commitment to scaling up non-fossil-based power capacity under international agreements like the Paris Agreement is acknowledged in the judgment. The Court’s decision reinforces the importance of pursuing renewable energy projects while also considering their ecological impacts. This alignment underscores the dual objectives of meeting energy demands and conserving biodiversity as part of a comprehensive approach to climate action.

What next steps does the Court propose?

The Supreme Court has constituted an Expert Committee to evaluate and recommend measures regarding the layout of overhead and underground electric lines, conservation efforts for endangered species, and assessing the potential impacts of climate change on habitats. This committee’s findings and recommendations could guide future policies and practices in balancing development with ecological preservation.

Does India have specific legislation for climate change?

While India has several environmental laws, it lacks a singular, comprehensive climate change legislation. The judgment may prompt a reevaluation of this approach, encouraging the adoption of framework legislation that can provide a strategic direction and legally binding targets for climate action, similar to laws in other countries.

This landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India places climate change squarely within the realm of constitutional rights, urging a more focused and legally backed approach to environmental protection and climate action.



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