The Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle

in Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles
Edited by Shibani Ghosh
Orient Black Swan
2019

About the Chapter

Rajamani explores the conceptual underpinnings of the precautionary principle, tracing its definition, interpretation and legal status in international law, before turning to Indian law. She argues that the application of the principle in the Vellore judgement is at odds with the Supreme Court’s own definition of the principle. The chapter discusses this lack of clarity in the Court’s engagement with the principle, and the blurring of lines between two distinct legal principles – precaution and prevention. Rajamani concludes that the invocation of the indigenous version of the precautionary principle may be instrumentally useful in arriving at environmentally favourable judicial outcomes, but it does not bode well for the development of a clear line of jurisprudence.

About the Book

For more than three decades now, the Indian courts have delivered far-reaching judgments on a range of significant environmental matters. In their effort to adjudicate complex disputes with serious environmental repercussions, involving the interplay of multiple social, economic and political factors, the courts have developed a framework of environmental rights and legal principles, which now forms an integral part of Indian environmental jurisprudence. The judiciary invokes this framework creatively to identify constitutional, statutory and common law obligations of public and private actors to protect the environment, and to enforce the performance of related duties. There is, however, limited in-depth study of these crucial rights and principles in existing legal literature.

Indian Environmental Law: Key Concepts and Principles fills this gap through its critical analysis of the evolution of this environmental legal framework in India. It studies the origins of environmental rights, substantive and procedural, and the four most significant legal principles— principle of sustainable development, polluter pays principle, precautionary principle and the public trust doctrine—and elaborates how Indian courts have defined, interpreted and applied them across a range of contexts.

As environmental litigation and legal adjudication struggle to respond to worsening environmental quality in the country, conceptual clarity about the content, application and limitations of environmental rights and legal principles is crucial for the improvement of environmental governance. This book explores the judicial reasoning and underlying assumptions in landmark judgments of the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the National Green Tribunal, and aims to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the framework of rights and principles.


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