From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 21
Mains level : Paper 2- Biocentric jurisprudence
In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has sought to move away from an anthropocentric basis of law.
Biocentrism Vs. Anthropocentrism
- Anthropocentrism argues that of all the species on earth humans are the most significant and that all other resources on earth may be justifiably exploited for the benefit of human beings.
- The philosophy of biocentrism holds that the natural environment has its own set of rights which is independent of its ability to be exploited by or to be useful to humans.
- Biocentrism often comes into conflict with anthropocentrism.
Supreme Court of India upholds biocentric principles
- The Great Indian Bustard is a gravely endangered species, with hardly about 200 alive in India today.
- The overhead power lines have become a threat to the life of these species as these birds frequently tend to collide with these power lines and get killed.
- Recently, the Supreme Court in M.K. Ranjitsinh & Others vs Union of India & Others, said that in all cases where the overhead lines in power projects exist, the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat shall take steps forthwith to install bird diverters.
- In protecting the birds, the Court has affirmed and emphasised the biocentric values of eco-preservation.
- A noteworthy instance of the application of anthropocentrism in the legal world is in that of the “Snail darter” case in the United States.
- The Supreme Court of the United States of America in Tennessee Valley Authority vs Hill, had held that since the “Snail darter” fish was a specifically protected species under the Act, the executive could not proceed with the reservoir project.
Human role in extinction of species
- About 50 years ago, there were 4,50,000 lions in Africa. Today, there are hardly 20,000.
- Indiscriminate monoculture farming in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra is leading to the extinction of orangutans.
- Rhinos are hunted for the so-called medicinal value of their horns and are slowly becoming extinct.
- From the time humans populated Madagascar about 2,000 years ago, about 15 to 20 species of Lemurs, which are primates, have become extinct.
- The compilation prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists about 37,400 species that are gravely endangered; and the list is ever growing.
Evolution of Right of Nature laws in Constitutions
- Pieces of legislation are slowly evolving that fall in the category of the “Right of Nature laws”.
- These seek to travel away from an anthropocentric basis of law to a biocentric one.
- The Constitution of India is significantly silent on any explicitly stated, binding legal obligations we owe to our fellow species and to the environment that sustains us.
- It is to the credit of the Indian judiciary that it interpreted the enduring principles of sustainable development and read them, inter alia, into the precepts of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- In September 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognise “Rights of Nature” in its Constitution.
- Bolivia has also joined the movement by establishing Rights of Nature laws too.
- In November 2010, the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first major municipality in the United States to recognise the Rights of Nature.
- These laws, like the Constitution of the countries that they are part of, are still works in progress.
In times like this the Supreme Court’s judgment in M.K. Ranjithsinh upholding the biocentric principles of coexistence is a shot in the arm for nature conservation. One does hope that the respective governments implement the judgment of the Court.