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M.K. Ranjitsinh and Ors. vs Union of India & Ors UPSC NOTE

 Recent Judgement

  • The issue before the Court was whether and how electricity transmission lines can be built through the habitat of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard

  • The government claimed that a previous court order protecting the bird’s habitat had affected the country’s renewable energy potential. 

  • Modifying this order, the Court prioritised transmission infrastructure to enable accelerated development of renewable energy to address climate change. 

  • But the more seismic aspect of the judgment was the newly minted ‘climate right’ rooted in the constitutionally guaranteed right to life (Article 21) and right to equality (Article 14)

  • Reading this right into the Constitution potentially opens the door to climate litigation, empowering citizens to demand from the government that this right be protected.

  • One way forward is the slow accretion of judicial decisions around this right. 

  • But another is new legislation to actively realise a right against the adverse effects of climate change.

Implications

  • One way forward is the slow accretion of judicial decisions around this right. 

  • But another is new legislation to actively realise a right against the adverse effects of climate change.

  • The former approach, the proliferation of court-based action through enhanced litigation around climate claims, will likely lead, slowly and over time, to an incomplete patchwork of (judiciary-led) protections. 

  • As with many other well-meaning judicial orders directing the protection of fundamental rights, realising climate rights could become contingent on the passage of several subsequent policy actions

  • Is the latter approach, climate legislation, then a preferred approach to protect climate rights? 

  • The judgment itself states that there is no ‘umbrella legislation’ in India that relates to climate change. 

  • And in so doing, seems to implicitly recognise the merits of an overarching, framework legislation

  • Drawing from the experience of other countries, framework legislation can bring several advantages. 

  • It can set the vision for engaging with climate change across sectors and regions

  • create necessary institutions and endow them with powers, 

  • and put in place processes for structured and deliberative governance in anticipation of and reaction to climate change.

  • But the more seismic aspect of the judgment was the newly minted ‘climate right’ rooted in the constitutionally guaranteed right to life (Article 21) and right to equality (Article 14)

  • Reading this right into the Constitution potentially opens the door to climate litigation, empowering citizens to demand from the government that this right be protected.

  • One way forward is the slow accretion of judicial decisions around this right. 

  • But another is new legislation to actively realise a right against the adverse effects of climate change.

Indian context

  •  India needs to transition to a low-carbon energy future, an imperative that is highlighted in the Ranjitsinh judgment. 

  • But this, by itself, is not nearly enough to enforce a right against the adverse effects of climate change. 

  • Climate legislation should also create a supportive regulatory environment for more sustainable cities, buildings, and transport networks. 

  • It should enable adaptation measures such as heat action plans sensitive to local context. 

  • It should provide mechanisms for shifting to more climate-resilient crops. 

  • It should protect key ecosystems such as mangroves that act as a buffer against extreme weather events. 

  • And, it should actively consider questions of social equity in how it achieves these tasks. 

  • In brief, it should provide a way of mainstreaming and internalising climate change considerations into how India develops. 

The factor of federalism

  • Many areas relevant to climate action, from urban policy to agriculture and water fall under the authority of sub-national governments — States or local levels, and electricity also is a concurrent subject. 

  • An Indian climate law must simultaneously set a framework for coherent national action while decentralising sufficiently to empower States and local governments, and enable them with information and finance to take effective action.

  • Finally, the enabling role should ideally also extend beyond government. 

  • Business, civil society and communities, particularly those on the frontlines of climate impacts, have essential knowledge to bring to energy transition and resilience. 

  • Finding ways of enabling participation in decision making would enable all these sections of society to bring their knowledge to the table in addressing climate change. 

  • An effective Indian climate law based on enabling procedures would also provide opportunities for voice to diverse segments of society


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: M.K. Ranjitsinh and Ors. vs Union of India & Ors UPSC NOTE
M.K. Ranjitsinh and Ors. vs Union of India & Ors UPSC NOTE
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