10 July 2022 | Vibhav peri | environmental LAW

The MoEFCC has released Public Consultation Papers on their website for amendments to major environmental laws in India- Including the Public Liability Insurance, Environment, Water and Air Acts. The Amendments seek decriminalisation of offences deemed relatively minor.

Environmental Protection Act, 1986: An overarching law that supersedes many others, including the Water and Air Acts for the prevent, mitigate and punish environmental damage and pollution. The proposed amendments state that failure, violation or non-compliance with provisions of the EP Act (such as to submit reports or supply information) would be dealt through imposing an increased penalty through an Adjudicating Officer rather than prosecution.
 However, in the case of a violation that leads to any grievous injuries or loss of life, relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code as prescribed by Section 24 of the EP Act will apply.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974: 
 A general law for the prevention and control of water pollution, and to take measures to maintain its health. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981: A general law for the prevention and control of air pollution, and to take measures to maintain air health and quality. The proposed amendments state that violation or non-compliance of the provisions of the Water or Air Acts would be dealt with by imposing an increased penalty through Adjudicating Officer rather than prosecution. This applies to several sections of the act, and is meant to ‘reduce the fear of imprisonment’. Only violations related to prior consent to establish or to operate would attract criminal liability.

The penalties imposed for violations of the Water and Air Acts will be put into the newly proposed Water Pollution Remediation Fund and Air Pollution Remediation Fund respectively. In most cases, penalties of ₹10,000 will be increased to an amount ranging between ₹1 lakh and ₹1 crore. This is similar to also newly proposed Environmental Protection Fund, in which penalty amounts from EPA violations will be deposited. The funds will be used to remediate the effects of environmental damage.

Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991: A law that deals with providing relief to victims of accidents caused by use of hazardous substances in industrial settings. As with the Water and Air Acts, provisions for criminal prosecution will be removed. Instead, violations will be dealt through with penalties. Violators can only attract criminal liability in the case of non-payment of penalty or additional penalties. These penalties will be collected under the Environmental Relief Fund.

Kanchi Kohli, Legal Researcher at Centre for Policy Research India, said “These proposed amendments not just reinstate the techno-managerial approach to environment regulation, but are also set up to lower the liability of polluters and violators of environmental norms at a time when the global environmental discourse is increasingly demanding higher levels of penalties and adjudication against environmental crimes.”

Leo Saldahna, 
Coordinator, Environment Support Group, said “Now, these proposed amendments. The EPA is an umbrella protection law. If you remove this, you are leaving the field open. It will legalise criminality in the garb of decriminalisation and lead to dilution of environmental jurisprudence built over the last four decades.”

Check the links in this linktree for more resources.

To offer suggestions to the ministry on these proposed amendments, write a mail to:

  1. For the Water Act:
  2. For the Air Act:
  3. For the Environment Protection Act:
  4. For the Public Liability Insurance Act:

Alternatively, you could write a mail to the address listed in the documents. The documents are available on the aforementioned linktree.


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