Stronger laws needed to assess impact on environment: Justice Bobde

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Nov 2018 10:29:02

   Justice Sharad Bobde addressing J 20 conference  


Staff Reporter,

Senior judge of the Apex Court Justice Sharad Bobde becomes first Indian SC judge to participate in J-20 conference

Senior judge of the Supreme Court Justice Sharad Bobde has stressed the need to have stronger laws to assess the damage to environment caused by new technology and not to allow further degradation of ecology while describing “environmental nightmares as collective failure of mankind. “When the last tree is cut, and the last fish killed, the last river is poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money,” he stated while underlining the need to put in place mechanism to rule out irreversible damage to environment by employing compulsory checks before new technology is introduced or new projects are introduced.

Justice Bobde was speaking at the ‘J20’ Conference at Argentina. J20 is the judicial conference of the highest courts of the G20, and was held in Buenos Aires. Justice Bobde became the first ever Indian Supreme Court judge to address the august gathering. The theme of the conference was ‘Building Consensus for fair and sustainable development’, and it sought to analyse, from a judicial point of view, the topics of development, fairness and sustainability, which are at the forefront of the G20 agenda. Justice Bobde participated in the conference representing India. The highest Courts of the G20 members and the highest courts of Spain, Chile and the Netherlands participated in the J20 meeting.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Towards Sustainable Development’, Justice Bobde suggested to have a fresh look at the concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as it fails to factor in several aspects, including the environment.

“For instance, if the Amazon rainforests were to be cut down and dug up in name of development, the GDP would reflect the trillions of dollars gained from Natural Capital like trees and rivers, but would not have factored in the loss due to destruction of ecology. Pollutants, loss of green cover and their impact are determinants to calculate loss in the natural capital. In the process of development, if loss of Natural Capital were to be accounted for, many activities might prove to be loss-ventures,” he explained.

Citing several example of disasters like Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Bhopal Gas Tragedy etc, Justice Bobde said that they could even be classified as ‘ecocides’ -i.e. the killing of environment and should be incorporated in international and municipal laws.” He praised Bhutan for introducing the novel concept of “Gross National Happiness” instead of GDP, “implying that sustainable development takes precedence over mere economic development”.

With regard to judicial control over sustainable development in India, Justice Bobde said that a significant step taken was the decision to include in the fundamental right to life and liberty, the principles of sustainable development, precautionary and polluter pays principles, principle of intergenerational equity and the doctrine of public trust.

Justice Bobde, stated that a complete lack of judicial control over development could be overcome by introducing compulsory pre-checks by using existing legal mechanisms, involving use of scientific assessment methods, particularly, Life Cycle Assessment. Justice Bobde then suggested setting up of a commission or a tribunal comprising of environmental experts from the member-states which manufacture or trade in a particular commodity.