Supreme Court Asserts Right to Protection from Climate Change

Supreme Court asserts fundamental right to protection from climate change, emphasizing India's international obligations for sustainable development in M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. vs Union of India.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that every person has a fundamental right to be protected from the harmful impacts of climate change. The court emphasized that countries like India must fulfill their international responsibilities for sustainable development. Although India has various laws and projects to address climate change, there's no specific legislation focusing solely on it.

Acknowledging the importance of a clean environment in the Constitution, the court highlighted the need to recognize the right to protection against climate change effects. This right is implicit in Articles 14 and 21, which guarantee equality and the right to life. The court stated, "It is essential to articulate this as a distinct right as climate change worsens."

The bench, comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, emphasized that this right must be considered alongside other rights, like the right against displacement. Additionally, India must fulfill its international obligations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.

The court's remarks came while discussing the protection of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) and the laying of power lines in its habitat. Initially, the court had imposed a blanket ban on overground power lines to protect the GIB, but it later lifted this ban due to feasibility concerns. Instead, it formed an expert committee to determine the best approach, balancing conservation with other environmental considerations.

The committee, comprising experts from various fields, will assess areas for power line installation, prioritize GIB conservation, and suggest long-term solutions. Their report is due by July 31, 2024, and the court has instructed them to consider all factors carefully before making recommendations.