ANR Programme 2009-2013
image of courtroom
A Joint Programme on Justice and Governance in India and South Asia
(Hosted by Centre for Himalayan Studies)

2- Natural Resources

Section 2: Natural resources management and environment policies, and Public Interest Litigations

Most studies about conflicts on land use, natural resources management and environmental protection in South Asia have focused on resource participatory management and on governance issues. The present project will study these conflicts by analyzing cases tried in High Courts, which involve different scales of regulations, ranging from international rules to local ones, and different actors, from international bodies, village committees, activists, NGOs, to individuals. We will analyse how the judiciary deals with all these actors and how it arbitrates between the defence of a world heritage and the survival of local populations.

Investigations will take into account, on the one hand, discourses on environmental protection, and more generally on nature, formulated either by administrative bodies or by plaintiffs who support nature protection policy, while pointing out the part played by international and national legislation on which they base their viewpoints. On the other hand, we will study the complaints made by those who suffer from nature protection rules, who are for instance evicted from their territory or deprived of their right to use resources.

This section concerns Joëlle Smadja (coordination), Sarah Benabou, Barbara Berardi-Tadié, Atreyee Majumder, and K.Sivaramakrishnan

Detailed projects

>> Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan

has researched on the colonial and contemporary history and anthropology of forests and wildlife conservation in India over the past fifteen years. His interest has now expanded to include new research on law, high courts, and the environment in India in the 20th century.

>> Atreyee Majumder

will work with K. Sivaramakrishnan to put together and analyse a database of judgments given by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, which are either environment-related ( limited to forest, land use, urbanisation) Public Interest Litigation, or expound on the rights jurisprudence around environment in any other form.

>> Joëlle Smadja

will study cases related to the extensions of the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The protected area was established as a forestry reserve in 1908, and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1984 as a habitat for rare or threatened plant and animal species. It houses no population since it is recognised as a natural, not a cultural heritage. Successive extensions have driven villagers from the park and its new limits. Many of them have become poachers and encroachers on what they consider to be their territory. Several law suits related to the extension of the park are under way at the High court of Gauhati. A first glance at these cases reveals that many actors are involved in them: tea gardens owner, groups of herders, village committees, NGOs or individuals.

>> Sarah Benabou

will study forest rights, environmental conservation and the Judiciary in the western Himalayas. Her contribution will focus on the interactions between the state and local society through judiciary cases related to the controversial and long-delayed Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. This passage from earlier exclusionist forest policies to this new Act takes place in the context of an international move towards environmental policies that reconcile wildlife conservation with human rights and justice. Yet, the Act has been the subject of considerable controversy, with many groups opposing it.

>> Barbara Berardi-Tadié

will study Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in India and Nepal. Initially introduced by proactive judges, it has become the privileged legal instrument of social activists. In order to provide legal representation to non- or under-represented groups or interests, any public-spirited citizen or social action group can approach the court on their behalf. Recourse to PIL has occurred mainly in cases of the violation of fundamental rights, power abuses, and environmental threats. In order to compare PILs filed by NGOs in Nepal and India, representative cases will be selected in each of the two countries, concerning the areas of fundamental rights and the environment. The project will study their differences in the use of this legal tool, and will also examine the role of the international community that emerges as a “third party” either opposed to or endorsed by NGOs.