Upholding Environmental Rights: A Landmark Supreme Court Judgment

Supreme Court Recognizes Right Against Adverse Effects of Climate Change - Upholding Environmental Rights: A Landmark Supreme Court Judgment
Upholding Environmental Rights: A Landmark Supreme Court Judgment

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India has upheld the right against the adverse impacts of climate change as a fundamental right within the purview of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution.

Recent Context:

This judgment arose from a case concerning the protection of endangered bird species, the Great Indian Bustard and the Lesser Florican, particularly in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The case centered on the detrimental effects of overhead power transmission lines on the habitats and flight paths of these birds.

Recognition of Climate Change Rights:

The Supreme Court emphasized that while not explicitly articulated, the right against the adverse effects of climate change is intrinsically linked to the right to a clean environment, which is enshrined as a fundamental right under Articles 14 and 21. With the escalating impact of climate change, the court stressed the necessity of explicitly acknowledging this right.

Impact on Human Rights:

The court highlighted the interconnectedness between climate change and various human rights, notably:

  • Right to health: Climate change poses health risks through factors like air pollution, changes in disease vectors, temperature rise, droughts, food scarcity, storms, and floods.
  • Right to equality: The inability of marginalized communities to adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change violates their right to life and equality.
  • Climate change also impacts indigenous rights, gender equality, and the right to development.

Climate Change and Environmental Degradation:

The judgment emphasized that violations of the right to a healthy environment due to climate change can have far-reaching consequences across several domains, including the right to life, health, water, housing, and procedural rights such as information, expression, association, and participation.

Prominence of Solar Power:

The court underscored the pivotal role that solar power will play in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. However, it also acknowledged the necessity of balancing conservation efforts with the urgent global challenge of addressing climate change.

This judgment signifies a crucial step towards recognizing and safeguarding environmental rights within the framework of fundamental constitutional principles, setting a precedent for future environmental jurisprudence in India.

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