Eminent jurists from across the world led by the Chief Justice of Singapore, Chan Seek Keong, have called for concerted efforts from both the developed and developing countries to reduce carbon emissions as per the Copenhagen meet on climate summit.
While expressing serious concern over the ecological and environmental degradation caused by high carbon emissions, the jurists suggested countries should have a common outlook and legal framework for implementing the Copenhagen Accord though there was no complete agreement in the summit.
The International conference on Sea, Global Warming and Rule of Law, organised by the International Council of Jurists in association with the Law Society of Singapore, is being held on the vessel, Super Star Virgo, sailing from Singapore to Penang in Malaysia and Phuket in Thailand and back to Singapore.
The speakers said the climate changes taking place had brought about uncertainties in time, magnitude and regional patterns and global warming was posing a serious threat to bio-diversity. Justice Keong who inaugurated the conference on Sunday explained the steps taken by the Singapore government for reducing carbon emissions. He said gas-based power generation had reduced carbon emissions to a considerable level and the government was trying other means to effect further reductions.
Justice P. Sathasivam of the Supreme Court of India said scientific experts had warned “if human activity continues at its present rate, the average global temperature on Earth could rise by up to 7 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. The danger has been recognised but not overcome. It is no exaggeration to say that humanity is currently tottering on the brink of a climate catastrophe”.
He said the Copenhagen summit did not result in any legally binding corollary to the Kyoto protocol, even though there was massive expectation for that to happen. He said climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to the people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.
He was of the view that using energy more efficiently, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energies and changing our lifestyles were keys to solving the problem.
He explained the initiatives taken by the Supreme Court of India in preserving and protecting the environment through its various orders as well as by its Forest bench in preserving forest wealth, the flora and fauna.
Corruption, the biggest bane
On judicial reforms, he explained the role and the steps taken for reducing arrears of cases in courts. Former Union Law Minister and President of Senior Advocates Association, Ram Jethmalani said corruption was the biggest bane of many societies and fortunately Singapore had overcome this menace to a great extent. Stressing the need for maintaining friendly relations with Pakistan, he urged the Indian government to sign a no-war pact with Pakistan for a lasting solution to the problem between the two countries. He said Pakistan and India must unconditionally extend the hand of love, friendship and cooperation.
He said two factors which came in the way of realisation of goals of many countries were terrorism and global warming. He said climate catastrophe would be the end of human civilisation and called for earnest efforts by all countries to reduce carbon emissions.
President of the Law Society of Singapore, Michael Hwang gave an account of the legal measures undertaken by his government for the poor to have access to justice.
Adherence to norms
Justice Cyriac Joseph, Judge, Supreme Court of India speaking on judicial reforms on Monday, did not agree with the criticism in certain quarters that the collegium system of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary in India had not worked well. He pointed out that since 1994, the collegium system was functioning and nobody had questioned it. Now all of a sudden some people had started questioning the efficacy of the system.
He said, “Today, if there is any criticism, people who operate the system are to be blamed and not the system itself. If there are any inadequacies, it can be improved. Those who take decisions, if they strictly adhere to the norms, problems will not arise. Only if there is a slight deviation from norms, then the problem comes.”
He did not agree there was corruption in the judiciary. He said, “Even if there is corruption in judiciary, here and there, you can't blame the judges alone for that as lawyers are also equally responsible.”
ICJ President Adish Aggarwal said jurists all over the world must take a lead and use law as an instrumental change for the conservation of environment and its natural resources. He urged the Government of India to increase the age limit of Judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court as it would help in reducing the pendency of cases.
Strengthen subordinate judiciary
Director, ICJ, S. Prabhakaran, wanted strengthening of the subordinate judiciary with adequate infra-structure. He said there should not be any hasty disposal of cases as that would result in the miscarriage of justice. He wanted the facility of E-Courts to be extended at all levels for speedy justice.
He said the Copenhagen accord failed to achieve anything substantial.
However, it should be the endeavour of all the countries to make concerted efforts to tackle global warming on a war-footing.
Initiatives by Pak govt
Former Law Minister of Pakistan, Rana Ijaz Ahmed Khan, called for greater cooperation between India and Pakistan as the people of the two countries always wanted friendly relations with its neighbour. On judicial reforms he explained the initiatives being taken by the Pakistan government for reducing arrears of cases in courts and for restoring the independence of judiciary. He called the role played by the Pakistan Supreme Court in quashing the orders of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court made by the President as they were not done in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Bishwa Kanta Manila, from the Nepal Bar Association explained the steps taken by the Nepal government for judicial reforms, in particular rendering justice to the poor.