News By/Courtesy: Varsha Subramaniam | 17 Nov 2020 9:50am IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The growth of environment law in India is the fact that major developments in the law have been at the instance of non-governmental organizations and public spirited individuals.
  • The expansion of Locus standi has been extensively used by environment groups and individuals to seek redress against environmental degradation.
  • If found that the action is not bona fide, the petitioner would be liable to pay exemplary costs.

A distinctive feature of the growth of environmental law in India is the fact that major developments in the law have been at the instance of non-governmental organisations and public spirited individuals. The judiciary assumed a more activist role during the 1980s as new modes of justice-delivery were devised. The courts overcame the limitations imposed by the traditional adversarial system by expanding the principle of locus standi. In the celebrated SP Gupta case, the Supreme Court declared that any member of the public acting bonafide can maintain an action for redress where a public wrong or injury is caused by the state. It is significant to note that the court ruled that such a member of the public may approach the court on behalf of a person(s) who has been injured but is not able to approach the courts by reason of disabilities like poverty, social or economic hardship. This expansion of locus standi has been extensively used by environment groups and individuals to seek redress against environmental degradation by taking recourse to Arts 32 and 226 of the Constitution.

However, it is not to be forgotten that such expansion of locus standi to enable any member of the public to approach the court to vindicate the public interest is not an unmixed blessing. The courts have not hesitated to discourage and in fact strongly deprecate actions which are not bona fide. The Supreme Court laid down in unequivocal terms in the Chhetriya Pardushan case ‘… this can only be done by any person interested genuinely in the protection of the society on behalf of the society or the community. This weapon as a safeguard must be utilised and invoked by the court with great circumspection and caution. While it is a duty of this court to enforce fundamental rights, it is also the duty of this court to ensure that this weapon ... should not be misused or permitted to be misused …’. More recently in the Raunuq International case, the Supreme Court has held that if any developmental project were to be stalled by reason of any public interest action before a court of law and ultimately, it is found that the action is not bona fide, the petitioner would be liable to pay exemplary costs. It can be seen therefore that while the scope of public interest litigation is extensive, courts have taken care to see that it is not abused.

 

This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being. 

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 18 Nov 2020 2:21am IST


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