How Green is my Supreme Court?

What has been the record of the Supreme Court in protecting the environment? Geetanjoy Sahu in a recent article in the Economic and Political Weekly examines every Supreme Court case dealing with enviromental issues from 1980 to 2004 to conclude that the court has come out overwhelming in favor of the “underdog”, in this case environmental NGOs. This draws upon his broader study on environmental governance and the judiciary in India.

This challenges the conventional understanding put forward by socio-legal scholars that it is “repeat players” in this case the government, PSU’s or big business which possess greater  wealth, experience, and
rapport with the political groups, are more likely to influence judicial outcomes than “powerless groups. It also challenges a growing body of literature on the “neoliberal court” which suggests that the Supreme Court since mid 1990s has moved away from addressing questions of redistributive justice and has largely supported economic liberalization. Sahu notes an exception to the pattern in cases dealing with infrastructure projects such as the Tehri dam or the Narmada dam, where the courts are reluctant to interfere.

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