Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

The citizen’s ‘climate rights’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fundamental Rights; Article 14 and 21;

Mains level: Judiciary;

Why in the news? 

The Supreme Court recently held that people have a fundamental right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change while emphasizing that countries like India must uphold their international obligations for healthy and sustainable development [M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. vs Union of India].


Background of M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. vs Union of India Case:

    • The case was related to the conservation of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB).
    • In 2021, a writ petition was filed by retired government official and conservationist M K Ranjitsinh, seeking protection for the GIB and the Lesser Florican, which are on the verge of extinction.
    • On April 19, 2021 order by SC was imposed restricting the setting up of overhead transmission lines in a territory of about 99,000 sq km in the GIB habitat in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that people have a “right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change”, which should be recognized by Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • This judgment was by a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The Recent Modification over Earlier Judgement given by the SC:

Who applied for modification of an earlier case?

  • The Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had applied to modify the 2021 order on grounds that
  • It had adverse implications for India’s power sector, and undergrounding power lines was not possible
  • The Paris Climate Treaty (2015) is one of the key grounds for seeking a modification of the 2021 order.

What SC did say in this case?

  • Underground powerlines: The apex court modified its April 2021 order giving directions for underground high-voltage and low-voltage power lines, and directed experts to assess the feasibility of undergrounding power lines in specific areas after considering factors such as terrain, population density, and infrastructure requirements
  • The earlier direction was not feasible: The ruling acknowledged that its earlier directions, “besides not being feasible to implement, would also not result in achieving its stated purpose, i.e., the conservation of the GIB”.
  • Suitable relationship between FR and DPSP: The court emphasized that when addressing environmental concerns outlined in the Directive Principles of State Policy, they must be interpreted in conjunction with the right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21.

How have the Courts interpreted Article 21 earlier?

  • Article 21 as the Heart of Fundamental Rights: The Supreme Court (SC) recognizes Article 21 of the Constitution as central to fundamental rights, emphasizing that the right to life encompasses more than mere existence but includes all rights necessary for a meaningful and dignified life.
  • Inclusion of Environmental Rights within Article 21: In the 1980s, the SC expanded Article 21 to include the right to a clean environment, along with various other rights such as education, shelter, clean air, livelihood, and medical care.
  • Actualizing New Rights: Despite the recognition of these new rights, citizens often face challenges in exercising them, particularly in cases concerning environmental issues like clean air.


What are the implications of the judgment for environmental jurisprudence?

  • Strengthening Environmental and Climate Justice: The judgment emphasizes bolstering environmental and climate justice by recognizing the multifaceted impacts of climate change on various communities.
  • Expansion of Article 14 and Right to Life: The judgment expands the scope of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law, to encompass environmental concerns.
  • Influence on Public Discourse and Government Policies: The judgment is expected to influence public discourse on environmental issues, shaping perceptions and priorities regarding environmental protection.
  • Establishment of Legal Precedent: By acknowledging the “right against adverse effects of climate change,” the judgment establishes a significant legal precedent.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s recognition of citizens’ “right to be free from adverse effects of climate change” expands constitutional protections, strengthens environmental justice, influences policy discourse, and sets a crucial legal precedent.

Mains PYQ 

Q Does the right to clean environment entail legal regulation on burning crackers during Diwali? Discus in the light of Article 21 of Indian Constitution and judgements of the apex in this regard.(UPSC IAS/2015) 

Q The most significant achievement of modern law in India is the constitutionalization of environmental problems by the Supreme Court.” Discuss this statement with the help of relevant case laws. (UPSC IAS/2022) 

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