Legal Framework Of Environment Laws in India
There is no dearth of legislations on environmental protection in India but their enforcement has been far from satisfactory. There is need for the effective and efficient enforcement of the Constitutional mandate and other environmental legislations. The creative role of judiciary has been significant and laudable. Pursuant to the Constitutional provisions contained in Articles 48A and 51A(h), many Public Interest Litigations have been instituted in the Supreme Court of India against many industries for failing to provide adequate pollution control and also against Pollution Control Boards to direct them to take appropriate measures to ensure pollution control. For the purpose of efficient and effective enforcement of these lays, it is necessary to set up an Adjucatory Body which should consist of legal as well as technical experts. Caring for regulating and protecting the environment is essentially a desire to see that national development should proceed along the rational sustainable laws.
Today, the conservation, protection and improvement of human environment are major issues all over the world. Human environment consists of both physical environment and biological environment. Physical environment covers land, water and air. Biological environment includes plants, animals and other organisms. Both physical and biological environment are inter-dependent. Industrialisation, urbanisation, explosion of population, over-exploitation of resources, disruption of natural ecological balances, destruction of a multitude of animal and plant species for economic reasons are the factors which have contributed to environmental deterioration. One country’s degradation of environment degrades the global environment for all the countries. The problem of environmental pollution has acquired international dimension and India is no exception to it. In the present paper, an attempt has been made to briefly outline the Indian laws which are primarily and more relevant to protect and improve the environment. The enforcement of these laws has also been examined and evaluated.
We have more than 200 Central and State legislations which deal with environmental issues. More legislation means more difficulties in enforcement. There is a need to have a comprehensive and an integrated law on environmental protection for meaningful enforcement.
- ii) It is not enough to enact the legislations. A positive attitude on the part of everyone in society is essential for effective and efficient enforcement of these legislations.
iii) The powers vested to the Pollution Control Boards are not enough to prevent pollution. The Boards do not have power to punish the violators but can launch prosecution against them in the Courts which ultimately defeat the purpose and object of the Environmental Laws due to long delays in deciding the cases. Thus, it is imperatively necessary to give more powers to the Boards.
- iv) The Environment Protection Laws have failed to bring about the desired results. Consequently, for the purpose of efficient and effective enforcement of these laws, it is necessary to set up the Environment Courts; with one Judge and two technical experts from the field of Environmental Science and Ecology. These Courts should be allowed to adopt summary proceedings for speedy disposal of the cases. To begin with we may have such Courts at the State and National levels that may later be extended to district level on need-based principle. In order to discourage prolonged litigation, the provisions should be confined to single appeal.
- v) There is a multiplicity of environment pollution control standards for the same type of industries. However, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 now the power has been conferred upon the Central Government for laying down the standards for the quality of air, water and soil. It is hoped that this will ensure uniformity of standards through out the country.
- vi) In order to enforce the environmental laws stringently, mere mis-description and technical flaws should be disregarded by the Courts. The creative role of judiciary has been significant and laudable. The jurisdiction of the Courts has been expanded by way of Public Interest Litigation. The Supreme Court of India has played a vital role in giving directions from time to time to the administrative authorities to take necessary steps for improving the environment.
vii) The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 which provides for mandatory public liability insurance for installation and handling hazardous substance to provide minimum relief to the victims, is a welcome step in the right direction. Such an insurance apart from safeguarding the interests of victims of accident will also provide cover and enable the enterprise to meet its liability.
viii) What we need is social awareness from below, not laws from the above. No law works out smoothly unless the interaction is voluntary. In order to educate people about the environmental issues, there should be exhibition of slides in the regional languages at cinema houses and television free of cost. Further, as directed by the Supreme Court of India, Environment studies shall be made a compulsory subject at school and college levels in graded system so that there should be general growth of awareness.
- ix) It needs to be appreciated that keeping in view the magnitude of finance required, a judicious mix of incentives, phasing and awareness creating, programmes about costeffective technologies is essential as the first prong of the strategy to control environment degradation. x) The traditional concept that development and ecology are opposed to each other, is no longer acceptable, since ‘sustainable development’ is the answer. The Supreme Court has accepted sustainable development as part of the laws of the land and has affirmed the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘polluter pays principle’ are essential features of sustainable development.
- xi) The tapping of natural resources must be done with requisite attention and care so that ecology and environment may not be affected in any serious way. A long-term planning must be undertaken by the Central Government in consultation with the State Governments to protect and improve the environment and to keep up the national wealth.
xii) Finally, protection of the environment and keeping ecological balance unaffected is a task which not only the government but also every individual, association and corporation must undertake. It is a social obligation and fundamental duty enshrined in Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India.
 Sachidanand Pandey v. State of West Benga’, AIR 1987 SC 1109