The Environmental (Protection) Act came into force in 1986 and was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution. It is one of the most comprehensive legislations for the protection of environment.
Section 2(a) of the Act outlines the meaning of the term ‘Environment’ that includes water, air, and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air, land, human beings and other living creatures, plants and microorganisms.
Sections 2(b) and 2(c) of the Act outlines the meaning of the terms used throughout this Act, such as Environment pollutant (any substance present in such concentration to be injurious to environment), Environmental pollution (presence of any environmental pollutant in the environment) etc.
Section 2(e) defines the term ‘Hazardous Substance’ as any substance or preparation which, by reason of its chemical or physiochemical properties or handling, is likely to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganisms, property, or the environment.
Sections 3-6 outlines the provision to make rules to regulate environmental pollution, to notify standards and maximum limits of the pollutants of air, water, and soil for various areas and purposes; prohibition and restriction on the handling of hazardous substances and location of industries.
Sections 10 and 11 allows any person appointed by the Government of India to inspect any equipment, machinery, company register, records, etc. and collect samples from an accused company and provide the test results as evidence in court.
Section 15 of the EPA states that any person who fails to comply or contravenes any of the provisions of the Act, or the rules made or orders or directions issued under the Act, to be punishable:
- With imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years;
- With fine which may extend to one lakh rupees;
- With both.
The Act also states that notes that for the subsequent failure or contravention, an additional fine which may extend to five thousand /every day can be imposed for a period during which failure or contravention continues.
If the failure or contravention continues beyond a period of one year after conviction, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years.
Section 16 of the Act states that when any offence is committed by a company, then that company as well as the person directly in-charge and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company, shall be deemed to be liable to punishment.
Section 22 of the Act provides protection to any government official (say a scientist who might be asked to test samples from an accused company) by preventing any Indian Court to take up a case/ prosecution against an officer who is doing their duty to uphold the provisions under the law under this Act.
According to the Act, a complaint can be made by:
- The Central Government or any other authority by the government or;
- Any person who has given a notice of not less than 60 days of the alleged offence and of his intention to make complaint to the Central Government or the authorised officer.