The Indian Supreme Court as Environmental Activist

Supreme court
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The nation’s most highest court has not been timid about utilizing legal activism to ensure the well being of the environment. 

India’s zenith court, the Supreme Court, has been assuming a significant part as a steward of ecological insurance. In an ongoing request, it required the focal government to set up a public climate controller with workplaces in each state by March 31, 2014, endowed with evaluating and supporting activities for ecological clearances. Truth be told, Indian popular government is known for its legal freedom, yet, significantly, for offering various examples of legal activism that has been encouraged by the “imaginative” apparatus of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) – a legal pill for alleviation against primary wrongs. 

Environment is the wellspring of life on earth like water, air, soil, etc., and determines the presence, development and improvement of humanity and all its activities. The concept of ecological protection and preservation is not new. It has been intrinsic to many ancient civilizations. Ancient India texts highlight that it is the dharma of each individual in the society to protect nature and the term ‘nature’ includes land, water, trees and animals which are of great importance to us. . In the ‘Atharva Veda’, the ancient Hindu Scepters stated “What of thee I dig out let that quickly grow over”. 

At the same time, new innovations like thermal power, atomic plants and so on without any sufficient natural assurance pose another danger to the situations, the aftereffect of which results in issues like global warming, climate change, acid rain, etc. Moreover, according to the pattern of Indian legislature to make a number of legislations as opposed to addressing the reason for failure and disappointment, passing new bills consistently is just like ‘old wine in a new bottle’. Therefore, there arises a requirement for a comprehensive analysis of the protection of the environment. In recent years, there has been a sustained focus on the role played by the higher judiciary in devising and monitoring the implementation of measures for pollution control, conservation of forests and wildlife protection. Many of these judicial interventions have been triggered by the persistent incoherence in policy-making as well as the lack of capacity-building amongst the executive agencies. Devices such as Public Interest Litigation (PIL) have been

prominently relied upon to tackle environmental problems, and this approach has its supporters as well as critics. 


PIL started in 1979 when the legal decision in the Hussainara Khatoon v. Territory of Bihar case prompted the arrival of more than 40,000 under preliminary detainees in the Indian province of Bihar. In an ensuing judgment (S.P. Gupta v. Association of India, 1981), Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer explained the idea of PIL, expressing that any individual from public can document a request in the High Court against an infringement of the legitimate or protected right(s) of any individual or class of people who are defenseless in moving toward the court for alleviation, and can straightforwardly move toward the Supreme Court on the off chance that the last’s basic right has been penetrated. In the People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Association of India case, 1982, Justice Bhagwati explained the reason for PIL, expressing that it is “a key arm of the lawful guide development which is proposed to bring equity inside the compass of the helpless masses, who establish the low perceivability territory of humanity. PIL is an entirely unexpected sort of case from the normal conventional case.” Over the years, PIL has expanded Indian legal commitment with natural issues enormously, albeit some legal executive specialists consider this marvel a weakening of the first motivation behind PIL. 

All things considered, legal activism has been instrumental in tending to the ecological reason. It was a direct result of the Supreme Court that the privilege to life and freedom, a central right under Article 21, came to incorporate the privilege to a solid climate. Thus, an individual can move toward it straightforwardly when the public interest is in question because of natural mischief. Following up on a PIL to check modern contamination of water bodies, for example, the Court gave notification to the Union government, Central Pollution Control Board, and 19 states to execute contamination control standards and the “polluter pays” guideline. 

Analysing some incidents 

On past events also, the Court has given notification and orders to the focal and state governments on numerous natural issues, for example, freezing creation licenses allowed to producers of endosulfan pesticide, migrating risky enterprises from the National Capital Region, giving rules for the anticipation

of commotion contamination, and requiring urban bodies to record testimonies itemizing measures to oversee plastic waste. A notable, disputable and rather harsh request came in 1998 (M.C. Mehta v. Association of India), when the Supreme Court ordered the change of all diesel-controlled transports in Delhi to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)- driven ones, to check air contamination. It likewise forced weighty fines on diesel transport administrators who neglected to conform to the decision. Thus, as of June 2012, approximately 13,000 transports were running on CNG in Delhi. Essentially, hearing an appeal in 2012, the Court reprimanded both the focal government and the state administrations of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for tireless contamination of the Yamuna waterway. The seat expressed: “It is significant for this court to take this issue to its obvious end result and not license state specialists and its officials to leave it mid-way especially when a huge number of crores [nearly $2 billion on sewage plants to treat effluents] have been spent by the association of India and other public bodies.” Importantly, the compassion of the Court for the average person is reflected in the accompanying proclamation: “It’s everyday person’s cash that has been spent and nothing has occurred.” As such, among different mandates, it requested the Indian Institute from Technology (IIT) to utilize its skill in tidying up the stream. 

Taking on the “mining mafia” has been another worry of the Supreme Court. Recently, it requested that the focal government submit by January 27 the Justice Shah Commission report on unlawful mining in the conditions of Odisha and Jharkhand. The report is relied upon to uncover the unlawful monetary exchanges and uncover the guilty parties. A year ago, the Court allowed 118 lawful mines in the territory of Karnataka to resume, lifting a two-year boycott. Nonetheless, it dropped the leases of mining ventures arranged outside the authorized territory of the Bellary locale. 


It justifies a proviso that the Supreme Court’s intercession isn’t a panacea for every ecological sick. Further, its activism has been understood by legitimate specialists as an infringement on the leader area of policymaking. Additionally, managing natural difficulties requires managerial and police responsibility, “grassroots level administration,” public illumination and metro sense, and corporate duty. In any case, the part of the legal executive is essential to ecological insurance. In China, for example, ecological nonconformists gripe of a nonattendance of the standard of law and request a legal function in dealing with natural cases. As indicated by China Dialog, for instance, during

the eleventh Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection got in excess of 300,000 natural grumblings, yet “under 1% of ecological debates are settled through legitimate channels.” In India, conversely, general society and legal executive lie on the one side of the range and the politico-regulatory specialists are on the other when legal review is looked for against specialists’ demonstrations of exclusion and commission. Indeed, the component of PIL has raised the everyday person in India to the informal status of an influential person who can count on the summit court and the state high courts to whip organizations without hesitation that is in the public interest.

Written by Ojasvi Taak

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