In the past several decades, the Indian judiciary has introduced innovative legal instruments to protect the country’s natural environment, including public interest litigation (PIL), Green Benches in state-level high courts, and environmental tribunals at regional levels. Though many of these changes are considered positive in society generally, the diverse impacts of this emerging judicial environmentalism on the livelihoods and wellbeing of the poor and marginalized sectors of Indian society call for careful examination by interdisciplinary scholars. Critics have pointed out that the judiciary’s initiative to resolve environmental litigation through its Green Bench has not been consistent in terms of balancing the environmental and economic needs of the poor. In the context of environmental justice, the poor have often become victims of the same legal instruments that were originally introduced to liberate them from poverty, pollution, and a skewed power structure. Our interdisciplinary team is examining how poor and marginalized sections of Indian society are impacted by various processes and institutions for seeking environmental justice in India. We strive to understand the influence of the broad political economy and development ideology of the state on the procedural, distributive, and restorative justice in India. In the first phase, our research is focused on the three Indian states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, which have experienced tremendous economic growth, massive infrastructure development and privatization of natural resources in the last several decades.
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