Court on climate right and how India can enforce it

Court on climate right and how India can enforce it


The Supreme Court of India, in its recent judgment in M.K. Ranjitsinh and Ors. vs Union of India & Ors., has introduced a significant new dimension to India’s climate change jurisprudence.

  • By recognizing a constitutional right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change, the Court has opened the door to extensive legal and policy implications.
  • As the new government contemplates its priorities, this judgment provides a unique opportunity to establish comprehensive governance mechanisms around climate change.


GS-3 (Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Topic About?
  • What is the New Climate Right?
  • Significance

What is the Topic About?

  • The judgment in M.K. Ranjitsinh and Ors. vs Union of India & Ors. revolves around the tension between protecting endangered species and promoting renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Specifically, it addressed whether electricity transmission lines could be constructed through the habitat of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.
  • The government argued that protecting the bird’s habitat hampered the country’s renewable energy potential.
  • In its decision, the Supreme Court modified a previous order to prioritize transmission infrastructure, thereby facilitating the development of renewable energy.

What is the New Climate Right?

  • The most groundbreaking aspect of the judgment is the introduction of a new constitutional right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change. This right is derived from the right to life (Article 21) and the right to equality (Article 14) in the Constitution of India.
  • The recognition of this right empowers citizens to hold the government accountable for protecting them against climate-related harms. However, the judgment raises several unresolved questions, such as how this right will be protected and whether the Court’s focus on clean energy as the main solution to climate change is sufficient.


It positions India as a proactive player in the global effort to combat climate change. It can potentially lead to increased climate litigation, where citizens can demand government action to protect their constitutional rights against climate impacts.

  • The judgment highlights the absence of comprehensive climate legislation in India. Such legislation can provide a structured approach to addressing climate change, setting clear visions, creating necessary institutions, and establishing processes for governance.
  • The legislation should enable adaptation measures, such as heat action plans and protection of ecosystems like mangroves. It should also consider social equity, ensuring that climate actions benefit all sections of society, particularly the vulnerable.

Way Forward

  • Develop Enabling Climate Legislation: India should aim for a climate law that goes beyond mere regulation of carbon emissions. An enabling law would foster development-focused decisions across various sectors, integrating climate resilience and low-carbon growth.
  • Create Robust Institutions and Processes: Establish institutions and processes for structured governance, including mechanisms for public participation, expert consultation, and transparent decision-making. Setting and revising targets and timelines should be integral to this process.
  • Focus on Adaptation and Mitigation: While mitigation efforts to reduce emissions are essential, equal emphasis should be placed on adaptation strategies. This dual focus ensures comprehensive preparedness against climate impacts.
  • Ensure Federal Cooperation: Effective climate action requires cooperation between national and sub-national governments. A balanced approach that empowers states while maintaining national coherence is crucial.
  • Engage All Stakeholders: Climate legislation should provide avenues for participation from all sectors of society. Businesses, NGOs, and local communities have valuable insights and roles to play in climate action.