Justice Khanna

“Justice Khanna had a Lasting Impact on the Judiciary and as he Continues to Inspire Judges of Different Generations with his Courage & Conviction”: Justice K.V. Viswanathan at 4th Justice HR Khanna Memorial Symposium

“Justice Khanna was so clean that he even made angels look disheveled and dirty.”

~Hon’ble Mr. Justice K.V. Viswanathan

(Judge, Supreme Court of India) at ‘4th Justice HR Khanna

Memorial National Symposium’

NALSAR, Hyderabad & DNLU, Jabalpur, in collaboration with CAN Foundation, hosted the 4th Justice H. R. Khanna Memorial National Symposium on 6th July 2024 (Saturday) in remembrance of the illustrious persona of Late Justice H.R. Khanna, on 8th July 2023.

There were two themes, each being taken up in different sessions. The 2nd session was on Perspectives On Legal Dimension Of Climate Change In The 21st Century”. This Session of the Symposium was graced by Hon’ble Judge Of Supreme Court of India, Mr. Justice K.V. Viswanathan, who was the Presiding Guest at the Symposium and saw the eminent presence of Mrs. Madhavi Goradia Divan and Mr. V. Giri (Senior Advocates, Supreme Court) as panelists.

The session was moderated by a panel of young and upcoming lawyers of the nation and comprised Mr. Sriram Parakkat (AOR, Supreme Court of India), Mr. Rajat Mittal (AOR, Supreme Court of India), and Ms. Srishti Chaturvedi (Academician & PhD Scholar, NLIU Bhopal).

Justice Viswanathan first congratulated both universities, NALSAR and DNLU, along with the CAN Foundation for hosting the annual symposium in the memory of Late Justice Khanna.

Justice Viswanathan then paid tribute to Justice Khanna, highlighting his lasting impact on the judiciary and as he continues to inspire judges of different generations with his courage and conviction while in office. He then said that people visiting the Supreme Court should visit Court Hall 2, where there is a life-like statue of Justice Khanna.

Transitioning to the session’s topic, Justice Viswanathan pointed out the connection between the morning’s discussion on the contours of the basic structure doctrine and the afternoon’s focus on the legal dimensions of climate change.

Justice Viswanathan’s remarks set the stage for an in-depth exploration of climate change, its existential threat, and the significant legal frameworks and judicial responses needed to address this global crisis.

Justice Viswanathan discussed the significance of the basic structure doctrine and the rights against the adverse effects of climate change, emphasizing their correlation.

“I think both are very significant, and both are important for our meaningful existence. Both the basic structure doctrine and the rights against the adverse effects of climate change are extremely vital,” he stated.

He emphasized the threat posed by climate change and the crucial role of legal frameworks in addressing it:

“Climate change is largely driven by our dependence on burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. When we burn these fuels, they release greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide. These gasses act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping the Sun’s heat and causing our planet to warm”; “The good news is that we can still act and reverse it. By reducing our reliance on fossil fuel and transitioning to cleaner energy sources like wind and solar power, we can slow down climate change and protect our planet for future generations.”

Justice Viswanathan referred to a series of UN reports to state that limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would help avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a livable climate.

He emphasized the need for solutions that are rational, sustainable, and capable of inspiring confidence to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

Justice Viswanathan then delved into the legal dimensions of climate change. He discussed the international treaties in place, starting with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in 1992, which serves as a foundation for international cooperation on climate change. This was followed by the Paris Agreement in 2015, which builds upon the UNFCCC and aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, ideally to 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels.

India’s commitment under the Paris Agreement includes achieving approximately 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, enhancing investments in sectors vulnerable to climate change, and establishing frameworks for rapid dissemination of cutting-edge climate technology. Justice Viswanathan acknowledged the ongoing debate in India about the need for an exclusive umbrella legislation for climate change, referencing a recent article in The Hindu that advocates for well-thought-out legislation.

Justice Viswanathan referenced the House of Lords’ decision in Fairchild v. Glenhaven Funeral Services, where the Court held that a claimant could claim total compensation from a defendant who had materially contributed to their asbestos exposure, applying a materially increased risk test instead of the traditional “but for” test. This principle, he suggested, could be applied to climate change litigation.

Justice Viswanathan also discussed the role of the Supreme Court of India in recognizing the right against the adverse effects of climate change. He cited a recent judgment of Ranjit Singh & Ors. vs Union of India, where the Court, through Chief Justice Dr. Chandrachud, stated that:

“We have a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change within the ambit of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, holding the said right to be the other side of the same coin as the right to a clean environment.“

To illustrate the global judicial response to climate change, he referred to various international cases. In the Netherlands, the Supreme Court upheld a decision requiring the Dutch government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing the government’s duty to protect human rights against climate change impacts. In New Zealand, the Supreme Court allowed a Maori leader’s claim against major greenhouse gas emitters to proceed to trial, recognizing the potential liability of companies for climate change damages.

He further referenced a paper presented by Justice A.K. Sikri, former Supreme Court judge, at the 4th Round Table Conference in Durham, which cited the Grantham Report on Climate Change and Environment. The report highlighted the rise in climate change litigation, noting that more than 1,000 climate-related cases were filed in 2015, compared to over 800 cases filed between 1986 and 2014. Using these statistics, Justice Viswanathan underscored how climate change litigation, once deemed largely unsuccessful, is now witnessing a gradual shift in outcomes.

“As per the Grantham Report (referred by Justice Sikri in his paper), in nearly 370 decided cases, outcome favored climate change action in around 58 percent, it was unfavorable for around 32 percent and (there was) no clear impact in 10 percent. Have courts internationally vested any positive obligation on the State enforceable under Paris Agreement etc? Our Courts have already laid the foundation by saying that there is a right to a safe environment away from the adverse effects of climate change,” Justice Viswanathan stated.

Justice Viswanathan stated by citing the Milieu Defense v. Royal Dutch Shell case, where the District Court of The Hague ordered Shell to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by at least 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels, rejecting Shell’s defense that no legal standard required compliance with such emission caps.

Justice Viswanathan concluded by highlighting the need for collective action at the legislative, policy, and legal levels to address climate change effectively. He stressed the importance of developing new tools and formulas to mitigate adverse effects and ensure a sustainable future.

“Climate change and its adverse effects have to be collectively addressed. It has to be addressed at the legislative level, at the policy level, at the environmental level, and at our level, the legal fraternity, because we need to fashion new tools,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Justice Viswanathan underscored the urgency of the climate crisis and the crucial role of the legal framework in mitigating its impacts.

“That is why this topic is as significant as the topic you debated this morning: both are essential for our existence. That is why they say the damages due to climate change or the adverse effects pose an existential threat,” he stated.

Justice Viswanathan also highlighted the importance of being prepared for future challenges in the legal field. He also urged law students to focus on environmental law, highlighting the critical need for specialists in this field. “You pursue your interest in this so that when the need arises, we are not left wanting with the weapons for the battle,” he advised law students, underscoring the necessity of equipping oneself with the knowledge and tools required for effective legal practice.

Justice K.V. Viswanathan’s speech serves as a clarion call for continuous learning and proactive engagement with emerging legal challenges, ensuring that the legal community remains well-prepared and well-informed.

The Entire Session can be viewed at:


SCC – EBC group were the knowledge partners of the event, with Bar and Bench as the media partners.

Must Watch

maintenance to second wife

bail in false pretext of marriage

right to procreate of convict

Criminology, Penology and Victimology book release

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.