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Our Indian Constitution specifically enshrined provisions related to protection of environment. As per Article 51-A, it is a fundamental duty of every Indian Citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Moreover, as Article 48-A detailing Directive Principles of State Policies also impose duty on the State to protect and improve environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife of the country. Apart from this, there are some prominent enactments of the legislation which deals with the protection and safety of the environment.

Laws related to environment:

There are some laws enacted by our legislation to safeguard the environment. Here is the list of some important enactments:-

  • The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977
  • The Environment Protection Act, 1986

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010:

For rapid disposal of cases relating to environment issues, the legislators enact the National Green Tribunal Act. The Act provides the establishment of specialized body called National Green Tribunal for effective and expeditious disposal of cases. The Tribunal has total five places of sittings in India including Bhopal, Pune, New Delhi, Calcutta, and Chennai. The principal bench is situated at New Delhi.

What are the objectives of National Green Tribunal?

Some of the major objectives of the National Green Tribunal are given below:-

  • Swift disposal of cases concerned with protection and conservation of the environment, forests, and other natural resources.
  • Provide relief and compensation for any damages caused to persons and properties.
  • Handle numerous environmental disputes that involve multi-disciplinary issues.

Composition of National Green Tribunal:

The Tribunal comprises three major bodies including the Chairperson, the Judicial Members, and the Expert Members. Moreover, there can be minimum 10 members judicial and expert members and maximum limit of such members are 20. These members can hold the office for five years and are not eligible for reappointment. The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

What kinds of cases are dealt with by National Green Tribunal?

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to try all the civil cases related to environmental issues. Howbeit, there is list of legislations under Schedule-I of the Act. The Tribunal has jurisdiction to try matters under these legislations.  The list includes the following legislations:-

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

What is the time limit for filing a case before the Tribunal?

Any case related to environmental issue can be filed within 6 months from the date on which the cause of action for such issue first arose. However, the Tribunal may extend such time period upto 60 days on its discretion upon being satisfied that the applicant was prevented by some sufficient cause from doing so.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981:

The Act provides for prevention and control of air pollution by establishing the Boards at Centre and State level to carry out that purpose. It vested the powers with the Boards to control the pollution. The major powers of the Boards are specified below:-

  • Declare any area as air pollution area.
  • Impose restrictions on any industrial units.
  • Take samples and inspect by entering into any industry.
  • Impose penalties on such industry found to be violating the norms established to control the air pollution.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974:

The Act provides the establishment of Boards at Centre and State level for prevention and control of water pollution. It prohibits the discharge of pollutants into water beyond the prescribed limit. Non-compliance of the same may lead to penalties. The Centre Board provides standards for the prevention and control of water pollution.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977:

In order to impose levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by persons operating and carrying on certain types of industrial activities, the Centre Govt. enacted this Act. The reason behind collecting cess is to increase the resources of the Centre Board and State Boards for prevention and control of water pollution.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986:

Under this Act, the Centre Govt. is empowered to take necessary steps to protect and improve the quality of the environment by setting up standards for discharge of pollutants by industries. It covers the various subject including regulating the location of the industries, management of hazardous waste, and protection of public health from pollution. Any non-compliance under this Act may attract the punishment which may extend upto 5 years or with fine upto Rs. 1, 00,000/- or both. In case of continuation of such violation after first conviction then an additional fine of upto Rs. 5000/- per day may be imposed on the violator. If violation continues for a period of one year after conviction then such violator may be punished with imprisonment upto 7 years.

What are the compliances to be made under environmental laws?

In the year of 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change categorized the industries. The industries under the ‘White’ category need not to acquire any permit or consent to operate as it includes non-polluting corporations. These types of industries only need to notify the concerned State Pollution Control Board.

The other categories such as Red, Orange, Green industries are required to obtain certain permits or consents from the concerned State Pollution Control Board. The required permits for such type of industries depend upon what kind of activity the business is carrying out and the size of the business.

Conclusion:

Along with citizens the companies are also indebted to protect the environment. They are legally bound to protect the environment by complying with diverse environmental laws. Otherwise, the non-compliance of such rules may attract heavy penalty on the violator.

-Kiranpreet Kaur

Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali

 

 

 

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