Date of text
Sabin Center
Court name
National Green Tribunal
Reference number
2013 (CWPIL No. 15 of 2010)
Climate Change

In February 2014, India's National Green Tribunal issued a ruling on its own motion imposing a number of restrictions on activity around the Rohtang Pass, an environmentally sensitive area in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.

The National Green Tribunal has jurisdiction pursuant to a a 2010 statute “over all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment ... is involved and such question arises out of [one or more of seven environmental protection statutes enacted between 1974 and 2002]." The court may initiate cases and impose remedies. In February 2014, on its own motion, the court found that Black Carbon, which can be produced through vehicle use, is a major causative factor for rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayan region. The court cited a study suggesting that 40% of the glacial retreat could be attributed to Black Carbon impact and concluded that, therefore, Black Carbon emission reduction can address glacial melting. The court concluded that Indian citizens have the right to a wholesome, clean and decent environment, derived from Article 48A of the Constitution (which requires the state to protect and improve the environment), Article 51A (requiring a citizen to protect and improve the natural environment) and Article 21 (protecting the right to life as a fundamental right).

Although the court described how greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming, and affirmed the applicability of the “polluter pays” principle to the respondents in this case, the court did not assign Himachal Pradesh responsibility for mitigating global warming per se. It did, however, order the government of Himachal Pradesh to undertake sweeping measures to reduce pollution, including random pollution checks, restricting transport in certain areas to compressed natural gas and electric buses, and implementing a reforestation program. These measures must be overseen by a Monitoring Committee that makes quarterly reports to the court.

Key environmental legal questions

Court on its own motion issued restrictions to curb black carbon emissions, among other things.