A mistake of judgment

  • 29/04/2002

A mistake of   judgment The justices of the Indian Supreme Court have, over the past decade, quite vigorously stirred the pot of social reform in India. Not so long back, there was a phenomenon called Justice Kuldip Singh, who blazed across the front pages of newspapers: shutting down polluters near the Ganga and the Taj, preventing construction along the coast, and restricting vehicular emissions in Delhi. For over a decade now, the Supreme Court of India, and to a lesser extent, the high courts, have set the national environmental agenda through their orders and judgments. Not unmindful of Arundhati Roy's fate some weeks back, I shall hazard to present a personal assessment of how the Supreme Court has fared in its proactive role in environmental regulation.

The mix of the men and women who constitute the higher judiciary in India is not much of a mix. Most Supreme Court and High Court judges are drawn from urban, professional, middleclass settings, and carry with them onto the Bench a value system and sensitivity not very different from that slice of society. Without intending to sound pejorative, in many respects, the concerns and priorities of the Supreme Court in the field of environmental regulation may be termed