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Courts should balance between environment & development: Justice Sikri

Talking about development and environment, he said courts need to strike a delicate balance between the two while dealing with such matters

Justice Sikri’s decision comes just three days after his vote helped decide the removal of Alok Verma as CBI director

Justice Sikri

IANS New Delhi
Development cannot be sacrificed only for the sake of environment, though the importance of the latter cannot be underestimated keeping in mind the interests of the current and future generations, former Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Sikri (Retd), has observed.
Talking about development and environment, he said courts need to strike a delicate balance between the two while dealing with such matters.
Justice Sikri said while sustainable development is important, a project causing damage to the environment can be asked to rectify the damage and the polluters may be asked to pay for causing damage to the environment.
"Development should be sustainable," Justice Sikri said.
"It should not lead to adverse consequences on the environment. Polluters are bound to pay. When we talk about the environment, it is not just for our generation, but for future generations as well. We have to take precautions. However, for the sake of the environment only, we cannot sacrifice development." he emphasised.
Though a challenging task, he said, it is the duty of the judiciary to strike a balance between the environment and development. The judiciary has to ensure that one does not come at the cost of the other. Courts should be conscious of the adverse effect the stoppage or delay of projects will have on the economy. Projects cannot be stopped only on the ground of humanity. The judiciary needs to think it through while taking decisions.
There are scores of instances where economically viable and promising projects were shelved or shut down following decisions taken by the judiciary or regulatory agencies on environmental concerns. Decisions in matters such as the Sterlite Copper, Goa mining and coal block allocation cases have taken a huge toll on the country's economy. Since the closure in 2018 of Sterlite Copper's Tuticorin plant, which used to contribute 40 per cent of the country's copper production, India has turned into a net importer from being a net exporter of the metal.
The courts, Justice Sikri said, should be very slow in granting stays and halting a project while taking a decision on the basis of a writ petition. It is because if the petition gets dismissed, say, after two or three years, the damage would have already been done to the project and the economy.
"If the person now comes seeking to recover the damage, who will pay the cost that might run into thousands of crores? You can't be asking the petitioner to pay that amount simply because he would not have the capacity to pay," Justice Sikri said.
Pointing out that the practice of public interest litigation (PIL) originated from the good and noble idea of helping the poor to access the judicial system, Justice Sikri said PILs have now become, in many instances, 'publicity interest litigation',
meant to get publicity only.
The former Supreme Court justice pointed out that "some so-called spirited people" have a tendency to file PILs seeking to stay a project on grounds that the same may cause some harm or the other to the environment. Many of these PILs are frivolous. Many of them are filed by those who have lost out to a successful bidder in the tendering process.
Justice Sikri also did not rule out the role of the foreign hand seeking to halt India's progress behind the filing of such PILs. He said the duty of the court lies in such instances to separate the grain from the chaff and if the court falters, then it will cause a huge damage to the economy.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Feb 19 2023 | 5:34 PM IST

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