Some of India’s brightest minds recently attended the 2016 India-Hawai’i Law Symposium, held at Richardson Law School on June 16, 2016. Among the distinguished Indian guests were Chief Justice T.S. Thakar, Supreme Court Judge, Justice A.K. Sikiri, Supreme Court, Justice Swatander Kumar, Chair of the National Green Tribunal, Vice Chancellor and Dean Raj Kumar, Jindal Global Law School.
Richardson Law School and Jindal Global University have a partnership with a student exchange program. Four Jindal students also arrived with the group to spend six weeks as externs with our Supreme Court Justices.
The symposium began with Governor David Ige signing SB 2453 into law. We now have greater protection through education measures in place to advance the health of our environment. The effect will be a change in behavior of violators of our natural resources. This is a pro-active approach to interacting with nature, where best management of our resources will benefit all.
The symposium featured many comparative perspectives between India and Hawai’i regarding law and the climate crisis. Both courts agree that human health is dependent upon effective laws governing the environment. India has a very comprehensive and progressive environmental court system, which is working swiftly on air, land and water issues. The National Green Tribunal is a first stop review for developers, before any permitting is given. Though our Environmental Court is not yet equipped with the same pro-active measures the Green Tribunal practices.
Hawai’i stands with very few other places as having written into the constitution that natural beauty is a protected resource. Our natural beauty is quite literally the hand that feeds us, culturally, spiritually and economically. It is an essential part of our Aloha spirit.
Ghandi also said that the environment takes care of human need but not of human greed. This regard for fairness and conservation embodies the basic premise upon which the National Green Tribunal of India rests. Though their environmental troubles are severe, this far sweeping progressive environmental court is already showing the positive effects of strict regulation.
A technical session covered constitutions and the environmental rule of law. Judges and professors from here and India agreed that both countries are in the international spotlight on how to set policy.
The elephant in the room is ‘What are the legal obligations to protect the environment?.’
Environmental Courts are a relatively new worldwide development and they are making changes in our global view of a healthy environment. The work is to simplify climate change issues to core environmental concerns as they relate to human health. It was agreed by judges from both countries that acceptability, affordability, and a good educative process are key to the best functioning environmental court system.
Teaching sensitivity toward the environment and examining how we think about nature is a vital precept in protection and sustainability.
As most TOC members know, the efforts to bring the E-Court bill into law took several sessions to succeed. TOC joined in partnership with Keep Hawaiian Islands Beautiful. Once the bill was introduced, other environmental organizations helped usher it into law. This was work done by many, though it was the direction of former Outdoor Circle Executive Director Marti Townsend and the vision of Jan Dapitan, of Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful, that the bill found its wings. Both organizations received national recognition from Keep America Beautiful for their efforts in this historic measure. Vermont has the only other statewide environmental court in America.
To commemorate the first year of our Environmental Court, the Friends of Hawai‘i Environmental Court was introduced. Richardson Law School Assoc. Dean Denise Antolini announced that this public group will include at least one Supreme Court Judge, and that the Green Tribunal Chair, Judge Kumar, will be the Advisor. I am very honored to represent The Outdoor Circle as a Friend.
We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
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