Supreme Court of India declares freedom from  Climate Change impacts a Fundamental Right

Supreme Court of India declares freedom from Climate Change impacts a Fundamental Right

Advancing Towards a Climate-Resilient Future: Climate Action milestone set by India

Introduction The Supreme Court of India’s recent landmark judgment, declaring the right to be free from adverse effects of climate change, marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s environmental jurisprudence. This historic decision, dated March 21, 2024, weaves together constitutional rights with environmental protection, addressing the pressing challenges of climate change. It reflects a progressive understanding of the intricate balance between human rights and ecological preservation.

Background of the Case The case at hand revolved around the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), a critically endangered species. The majestic bird, emblematic of India’s rich biodiversity, has been facing threats due to habitat loss and human-induced environmental changes. The Supreme Court's intervention in this matter was sought after concerning the fatalities of these birds due to collisions with overhead power lines in their habitat areas. This case, therefore, presented a unique opportunity for the court to address broader environmental issues.

Image: Great Indian Bustard (Source: Simerpreet Cheema on Unsplash)

The Judgment and Its Significance The Supreme Court's judgment, authored by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, extended the scope of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution, recognizing the right to a healthy environment as integral to these provisions. The Court asserted that this right encompasses being free from the harmful impacts of climate change. This interpretation marks a significant shift in legal thinking, aligning India with global movements advocating for environmental justice and recognizing the human impact of climate change.

Image: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud (source: Prime Minister's Office (GODL-India)

India's International Commitments and Renewable Energy The judgment arrives at a time when India is actively participating in international climate commitments, including the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement. It underscores India’s dedication to renewable energy, particularly solar power, as a strategy for mitigating climate change impacts. This decision highlights the need to align national policies and actions with these international obligations while ensuring environmental conservation.

Balancing Conservation and Development In addressing the GIB conservation issue, the judgment skillfully balances the need for sustainable development with the urgency of wildlife protection. The Court modifies its previous directives on underground power lines, considering the economic and practical aspects, while ensuring that conservation remains a priority.

Implications for Policy and Future Litigation This judgment sets a precedent for future environmental policies and litigation in India. It may inspire environmental activism and shape governmental policies towards more sustainable and eco-friendly practices. The decision is poised to influence how environmental challenges are approached in courtrooms, potentially leading to more environmentally conscious jurisprudence.

Conclusion The Supreme Court of India's ruling is a beacon of hope for global environmentalists and citizens alike, symbolizing a judicial acknowledgment of the climate crisis and its human impact. It paves the way for a future where legal frameworks protect not just the rights of individuals but also the health of the environment. This judgment is a testament to India's commitment to forging a sustainable and resilient future for all.


  1. Judgment on Writ Petition (Civil) No. 838 of 2019 and And with Civil Appeal No. 3570 of 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 10 April 2024).

  2. Express view on Supreme Court linking climate change and fundamental rights: A call to action (2024) The Indian Express. Available at: (Accessed: 10 April 2024).

  3. Right against climate change part of right to life, equality: Read the Supreme Court’s exact arguments (no date) Down To Earth. Available at: (Accessed: 10 April 2024).

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