Edited by Anna Grear and Evadne Grant
Chapter 5: Human rights and environment protection in India: the judicial journey from public interest litigation to the National Green Tribunal
The relationship between human rights and environmental protection is not linear: it has not progressed harmoniously; sometimes its nature and scope has been vigorously debated; sometimes a collision or conflict was inevitable; and at other times its implementation was – and remains – questioned. This chapter focuses on how the Indian judiciary has applied a human rights lens to analyse and address environmental protection. Two human rights, the right to a healthy environment and the right to development are examined in this context. Recognising and promoting the intertwined relationship between human rights and environmental protection is crucial. The developments presented in this chapter chart the approach adopted by the Supreme Court of India. The court has locked together constitutionally protected human rights and environmental protection through the use of Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Particular emphasis in this chapter is placed on the jurisprudence of the recently created National Green Tribunal (NGT) India, which is the new forum for environmental disputes. The recognition that human survival depends in part upon the right to a healthy environment is gaining broader acceptance at the national, regional and international levels. Globally, there is increasing constitutional recognition and enforcement by the courts of the right to a healthy environment. Additionally, the recognition by soft law instruments and treaties that are procedural, derivative or stand alone is increasingly based on an emerging understanding that environmental harm affects the right to life. In contrast, the right to development articulates the entitlement of the developing world.
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