Hans Dembowski, Vera Dicke
March 12, 2016
Based on assessments of cases of public interest litigation that concern environmental problems in the Calcutta agglomeration, this article locates the megacity’s problems of governance not so much in civil society as in the public sphere. Though there is a lively civil society in the sense of a criss-crossing social web independent of the state, the citizens lack democratic trust in government agencies. State bodies tend to remain inaccessible and unaccountable. In these circumstances, the judiciary is the only branch of government that can provide rudimentary relief to citizens. Given the non-transparency of the state apparatus, the judiciary is the only recourse to compel government agencies to fulfil their duties, thus providing an inkling of a democratic public sphere. The courts, however, neither can enforce good governance on their own, nor is there any guarantee that they act responsibly themselves at all times. Environmental public interest litigation offers ample evidence in support of this argument.