Development, protection of environment should go hand in hand, justices sayJudicial activism in Nepal has resulted in several court rulings related to environmental protection, according to the Supreme Court judges.
Most legal and constitutional measures in Nepal related to the environment are a result of judicial decisions made by the courts on different occasions, according to Supreme Court justices.
Addressing a Regional Symposium on Forest and Protected Areas Legislation and Jurisprudence in the Capital on Thursday, the judges claimed that the courts, through their judicial activism, issued several rulings for environment protection when there were no legal and constitutional instruments in place.
In his inaugural address, Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki said development activities shouldn’t be detrimental to the environment.
“The Supreme Court on several occasions has ruled towards ensuring a balance between economic and development activities and environmental protection,” said Karki. “The government cannot be sustainable by destroying the environment.”
The three-day symposium brings together the judges and legal practitioners from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to acquaint them with the intricacies of forest and protected areas laws while giving them an overview of the science behind the same.
It also aims to strengthen the judicial implementation of protected forest areas legislation in the region and promote capacity building and information exchange in judicial decision making and enhancing the legal and scientific knowledge of judges on forest and protected areas legislation.
In her keynote speech, Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla said there can be no true development at the cost of destruction of the environment.
Highlighting the role of judiciary in environment and forest protection through their landmark verdicts, Malla said it's a sad reality that the idea of environmental justice is taken as anti-development. “Most of the time the court is targeted for being against development. That was openly expressed in the Supreme Court’s verdict related to the site for the construction of the Nijgadh International Airport,” she added.
The Supreme Court in May last year had directed the government to construct the airport ensuring a minimal loss to the environment.
Scrapping the existing Environmental Impact Assessment report, the court directed to have a proper assessment report in place.
At the symposium, Malla also highlighted the different challenges facing the country’s judiciary in giving apt rulings in cases related to environmental protection. She said the knowledge of the judges with regard to environmental issues was limited, while the judiciary lacked resources, and adequate evidence and legal expertise on the matter.
Presenting their views at the symposium, the justices said as a party to several international conventions, Nepal has obligations towards environmental and biodiversity protection. They also said that the constitution of Nepal not just guarantees the right to live in a clean and healthy environment, it also provides a remedy for the violation of these rights.
The justices, however, expressed dissatisfaction at the non-implementation of the court order. The Judgment Enforcement Directorate has failed to meet public exepctations. “The contempt of court has been used as a tool to pressurise the government into reinforcing the court verdicts,” lamented Malla.