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Judgement on Right to Be Free from The Adverse Effects of Climate Change

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 10-Apr-2024

Source: Indian Express

Introduction

In a landmark judgment of M.K. Ranjitsinh v. Union of India (2021) the Supreme Court of India has reaffirmed the citizens' right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change, thereby asserting the significance of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. This crucial ruling, delivered by a three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra emerged from a case concerning the conservation of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), whose implications extend far beyond the protection of a single species.

What is the Context of Case?

  • The genesis of this ruling lies in a writ petition filed by M K Ranjitsinh, a retired government official and conservationist, seeking protection for the GIB and the Lesser Florican, both teetering on the brink of extinction.
  • The plea urged urgent measures such as the framing and implementation of an emergency response plan, including the installation of bird diverters and the dismantling of infrastructure encroaching upon critical habitats.
  • Central to this case was the conflict between conservation efforts and developmental activities, particularly the setting up of overhead transmission lines, highlighted in the apex court's April 2021 order.

What was the Court’s Verdict?

  • In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged the complexity of the issue, modifying its previous order on undergrounding power lines.
  • While emphasizing the need for expert assessments on the feasibility of such measures, the Court also underscored the interconnectedness of climate change and human rights, echoing global concerns about environmental degradation.
  • Importantly, the ruling enshrines the Union's commitment to conservation efforts while navigating the challenges posed by climate change.

What are the Legal Provisions Involved in this Case?

  • The Court's interpretation of Articles 14 and 21 reflects a broader understanding of fundamental rights, encompassing the right to a clean environment and a dignified existence.
  • By contextualizing environmental concerns within the framework of human rights, the Court aligns with its historical stance on expanding the scope of Article 21 beyond mere existence to ensure a meaningful life for every citizen.
  • This ruling reaffirms the judiciary's role in upholding environmental justice and underscores the imperative for legislative action.

What are the Implications for Environmental Jurisprudence?

  • Environmental experts and legal scholars have hailed the judgment as a significant milestone in India's environmental jurisprudence.
  • By recognizing the "right against adverse effects of climate change," the Supreme Court not only addresses pressing environmental concerns but also paves the way for future litigation and policy interventions.
  • This decision not only bolsters India's international commitments but also emphasizes the role of the judiciary in safeguarding citizens' rights in the face of environmental challenges.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Supreme Court's ruling heralds a new era of environmental consciousness and legal activism. By intertwining constitutional principles with environmental imperatives, the Court sets a precedent for balancing conservation efforts with developmental aspirations.