“ One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man & nature shall not be broken”.
Nature is very important for human beings to survive on the earth. If human will not survive, then they will not grow and progress. So, it is very important for us to protect the environment from dangers and also not to harm them. And if we human ourselves will harm them, then how they will give us the essential things of our life like water, food, oxygen, furniture and many more things. Nature is dependent on us if we will take care of them, then only we will take care of us. If we will harm them, they will also harm us in different ways like flood, earthquake, drought etc. But humans instead of taking care of nature are destroying and harming them, the day will come soon when we will suffer a lot. Humans are becoming careless day by day, so it is the need of the hour to make protection of environment. Therefore, the Environment (Protection) Act was passed in the year 1986. It was made to provide the protection and improvement of environment & for matters that are concerned with it. It is made with the objective of protecting and improving the environment. Article 48 A of the Indian Constitution, 1949 Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country. Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution, places a duty on the citizens of India to protect and improve the natural environment and have compassion for all living creatures.
In India, many legislative have been made for the protection of environment. However, all the legislations made before 1986 Act were specific related to precise aspects of environmental pollution. But, the 1986 Act was general law enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution . Article 253 of the Constitution, states that , Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.
First major conference to be held on International Environmental issues was UN Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, in which India was also a signatory, and an active participant. After this conference many laws came such as The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution ) Act, 1974 and The Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. But there was a need for the general legislation that can implement the decisions of the conference.
Thus, The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 came into being which is a general law.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT-
The Act was enacted on 19th November 1986. It applies to the whole of India including Jammu and Kashmir.
Jurisdiction of civil courts is barred under the act.
All forms of pollution are covered under this act i.e., air, water, soil and noise.
Prior permission has to be taken from the government for the use of hazardous material.
Authorities are assigned by Central Government in various jurisdictions to implement the laws of this act.
OBJECTIVES AND PURPOSES-
The following are the objectives of the Act:-
The main purpose of the act is to “provide for protection and improvement to the environment and all the matters connected with it”.
It aims to implement all the decisions made by members of the UN Conference on Human Environment, held at Stockholm in June 1972. In which India was also a participant.
Strict actions are taken against again those who will harm the environment.
It enforces laws on environment protection on those areas that are not included in the existing laws.
It gives wide powers to Central Government to take strict measures for the protection of environment.
It is a general law that includes all the matters related to environment protection and has wider scope.
It also gives harsh punishments to those who harm the environment.
Detailed structure is made for more stability and clearity on the environmental laws of the country.
Activities of the various regulatory agencies under the existing laws are coordinated by this act.
It restricts some areas for location of industries.
Prevents and control environmental pollution.
Some of the landmark cases of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 are as follows:-
M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 734 – It is also known as Taj Trapezium Case. In this case a writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court, because the colour of the marble of the Taj Mahal turned yellow due to air pollutants & industrial emissions in the area. Supreme Court based on its judgement of the case Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs. UOI and others gave many directions to banned the use of coal and cake in the Taj Trapezium. Apex Court had also encouraged the use of CNG.
M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, 1997 11 SCC 312 ( Groundwater Depletion case)- In this case, a petition was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by the petitioner M.C. Mehta. Petition was on the matter concerning depletion of groundwater levels in the country. In many parts of the country the situation had worsened because levels of groundwater was very low, and no authority was there to check the problem and solve it. . Thus, the Central Government made the Groundwater Board into an ‘authority’, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, as directed by the SC. Authority was given legal powers to issue licenses and act against polluters .
Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action vs. Union of India, AIR 1996 SC 1446- In this case, the SC used the principle “Polluter- pays”. The principle means that those who will pollute the environment has to pay the costs of preventing and repairing the damage due to the pollution caused by them. The court asked the Central Government to recover the amount of the damage done from the defaulters in the case.
Tarun Bharat Sangh vs. UOI AIR 1992 SC 514- Minning activities undertaken inside the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary were banned by the SC in this case. As the activities were against a notification issued by the Central Government under Sec 3 of the EPA, 1986.
Environment Protection Act, 1986 is the law which is made for the protection of environment . There are many laws for environment protection , but this law is more board than any other law . It covers all the aspects of environment and its problems.
This law is the best law for the environment. It takes necessary steps to protect the environment form any harm done by humans and also controls the pollution. This law takes strict actions against the persons who tries to damage the environment and also gives harsh punishment to them. This is a good step in protecting the environment.
Written By Alisha Singh, 2nd Year Law Student, Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida