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Analysis Of Prevention And Control Mechanism Of Air Pollution Act, 1981 With Penalty Provision

The "Prevention and Control Mechanism of Air Pollution Act, of 1981" is a pivotal piece of legislation aimed at curbing air pollution and safeguarding public health and the environment. This analysis delves into the key provisions of the Act and focuses on its penalty provisions as a deterrent mechanism.

The presence of various pollutants discharged through industrialization has begun the problem of air pollution which is increasing day by day having detrimental effects on the health of the people, animal life, vegetation and property. Therefore air pollution needs to be controlled which is why AIR Act was introduced.

Sources Of Air Pollution

  • Some major sources of air pollution are fuels, coals, petroleum, and industries which consist of hydrocarbon, sulphur, nitrogen, etc.
  • Air Pollution can also be in the form of heat, smoke, fume, dust, etc.
  • Burning of fossil fuels produces oxides of carbon, nitrogen, etc. which adds to the problem of air pollution.

Effects of Air Pollution

  • Several people are dying in urban India due to deteriorating air quality which is rising every year and very little is being done to deal with pollution in the country.
  • As of data is concerned around 51000 people died in 36 Indian cities in 1995 which equals 66%.
  • According to WHO, tobacco-related deaths can rise to 7 million per year.
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) also contributes to respiratory morbidity in children. Also, the danger of passive drinking is real and broader than that of real and direct smoking.
Case: Murli S. Deora V. Union Of India[1]
Supreme Court directed UOI, State government as well as Union Territories to take effective steps to ensure prohibiting smoking in Public Places( Auditoriums, Hospital Buildings, Public offices, Libraries, etc.)

Objective Of The Act
It is a specialized legislative measure, meant to tackle environmental pollution with the following objective:
  1. To provide for the Prevention, Control and abatement of Air Pollution.
  2. To provide for the establishment of Central and State Boards.
  3. To provide these boards powers and functions related thereto.
  4. To Lay down Standards to maintain the quality of Air.
  5. To provide for penalty provision so that people take preventive steps to control air pollution and avoid indulging in activities leading to air pollution.
In this project, we will focus on prevention and control mechanisms and Penalty provisions of the Air Pollution Act.

Prevention And Control Mechanism Of Air (Prevention And Pollution Control) Act,1981

Section 19-31A deals with different measures, which can be taken to prevent and control air pollution which are detailed as follows:
  1. State government has the power to declare, alter and modify any area as an Air pollution control area and has the power to prohibit the use of such fuel which can cause air pollution in this restricted area. The state government in consultation with the state board may notify the same in the official gazette.

    Case: Orissa State (Prevention And Control Of Pollution) Board V. Orient Paper Mills[2]
    The SC held that in the absence of rules prescribing the manner for declaring an area to be an "air pollution control area", the state govt. is authorized to declare any area as an air control pollution area using notification in the official gazette.
  2. State government in consultation with the state board have the Power to Give Instructions to the authority in charge of Motor Vehicle for ensuring standards for emission from automobiles and such authority shall be bound to follow such instructions.

    Case: Vardhman Kaushik V. Union Of India[3]

    The National Green Tribunal directed that all vehicles which are more than 15 years will not be permitted to ply in Delhi. The transport Commissioner shall ensure that such vehicles are not registered in NCR Delhi because of increasing pollution in Delhi.
  3. Consent:

    To control air pollution, the act has made it mandatory for an entrepreneur to obtain consent from the State Board and if any industrial plant was operating before 1.4.1998 then such person will also apply for consent of the board within 3 months and application for consent will be accompanied by prescribed fee. The state board can either reject or approve the application and if rejected, reasons are to be given in writing. Generally, the consent application needs to be disposed off within 4 months of receipt of the same.
    The following conditions are needed to be complied with after receiving consent from the state board:
    • Control equipment to be installed as specified and approved by the state board.
    • Control equipment is required to be kept in good running condition and should be altered, and replaced by the state board.
    • Chimney to be erected or re-erected wherever necessary of such specification by the state board.
    • Any other conditions as specified by the state board.
    If any of the conditions specified are not followed then the state board have the power to revoke the consent previously so granted. Also, these standards laid down by the state board shall be adhered to.

    Sec 22A specifies that the board can make an application to the metropolitan magistrate and Judicial magistrate 1st class for restraining the person from causing Air Pollution. All expenses incurred in the process will be recovered from such a person itself.

    Case: M.S. Chhatisgarh H.L. Industries V. Special Are Development Authority[4]
    The permission to start a hydrated lime factory was refused by the Pollution Control Board as the factory was close to a government college and hospital.

    Case: Ved Kaur Chandel V. State Of H.P.[5]
    The H.P. State pollution control board gave only conditional consent to establish the tyre-re-treading factory before the final order was to be passed. The court further observed that the pollution control board must ensure that the respondent commences production after fulfilling the said conditions laid down in the said consent and shall observe all the laws about the environment.
  4. Inspection:
    Section 24 gives the power to the state board or person authorised by the state board to enter and inspect premises within a reasonable time and have the power to examine whether the standard laid down by the board are being followed or not and every person operating any control equipment in any air pollution control area is bound to assist the authority failing which will attract offence under this act. Sec 25 of the act states that state boards have the power to obtain information from occupiers or any person carrying on any industry or operation etc
  5. Sample Collection And Report:
    Section 26 lays down the procedure for collecting samples wherein NOTICE is to be served to the agent or occupier by an authorised person by state. Then after, samples will be collected in front of the agent or occupier, sealed and signed by the occupier or agent and by the officer before sending the samples to the laboratory established by the state. If the occupier wilfully absent himself, the reason will be given in writing and if the occupier refuses to sign the sample authorised officer will sign and send the samples. Section 27 tells that the report from the laboratory is sent to the occupier as well as to the state board and the court (triplicate form). An analyst will be appointed to analyse the report and will be admissible as evidence before the court as per sections 28,29 and 30.
  6. Appeal:
    Any person aggrieved by an order made by the state board may be done within 30 days to the appellate authority which is constituted by the state. Also, the appellate authority may entertain the appeal after 30 days if there is reasonable reason to believe so as given under section 31.

    Further, a person aggrieved by the decision of the appellate board may Appeal to the National Green Tribunal under section 3 of NGT ACT 2010(section 31B).

    Also, no court inferior to a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First class can try an offence under this Act as stated in Section 43.

    Case: A.P. Pollution Control Board V. Prof. M.V. Nayudu[6]
    The SC suggested that there is an immediate need that in all the states and Union Territories, the appellate authority under Sec.31 of the Air Act should always have a sitting or retired judge of the High Court and a scientist that is experienced to help adjudication disputes relating to environment pollution.
  7. Power To Give Direction:
    Board have the power to give direction regarding the closure, stoppage, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation, or process. It can also stop the supply of electricity, water or any other services as stated under section 31A.

    Case: Jadav Soap Works V. Union Of India[7]
    The board arrived at the findings that the petitioner industry was emitting high black smoke which was hazardous to the locality as well and no preventive steps were taken by the industry to control the same. The board issued a notice for closure of the industry but the board failed to provide proper reasons for such an order. On an appeal filed against the order court observed that the board produced no record of reasons and hence held that such instructions issued are arbitrary and quashed the notice.
Penalty Provision Under The Air (Prevention And Control Of Pollution) Act, 1981
The penalty provision under the act is given under Section 37-Section 46. The Air Act was not originally having penalty provisions but the Amendment Act of 1987 has made necessary changes in the penalty provisions some of which are given as under:
Section Provision Punishment
Section 37
  1. If any plant is operated in an air pollution control area without the consent of the board, or
  2. If any directions given by the state board are   not followed, or
  3. If any excess amount of air pollution is done
  1. Imprisonment - not less than 1 yr. and 6 months to 6 years with a fine.
  2. If failure continues then an additional Rs.5000 per day will be imposed.
  3. Failure continues beyond a period of one year the punishment- Not less than 2 years to 7 years with the fine
Section 38
    If any person tries to:
  1. Destroy, remove, or injures any property and post placed by the board, or
  2. Obstructs any person authorised by the board to exercise their power or
  3. Fails to give any information required by the board or fails to take prior consent from the board before setting any industry
Imprisonment- extend to 3 months with a fine of a maximum of Rs. 10,000 or both.
Section 39 Offences for which there is no provision provided in the whole air act. Imprisonment- 3 months,
Fine-10,000 or both.
In case contravention continues: - fine of Rs. 5000 per day after the conviction has been imposed. 
Section 40 Offences by companies:
The principle of Vicarious liability will apply which means whoever was in charge at the time of the commission of the offence will be deemed to be guilty.[8]
Every manager, company secretary, director, KMP, etc. will be liable if the contrary is not proven. 
Section 41 Offences by Government departments: The head of the Department shall be punished accordingly.[9]

Also Section 42 states that cognizance of the court shall be taken only on the complaint of a board or any officer authorised on his behalf or any person who has given such notice in not less than 60 days of the alleged offence. In addition to this, the offence can only be tried in a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First class and not below this court.

Case: Municipal Corporation Of Delhi V. J.B. Bottling Co. (P) Ltd.[10]

The court held that where the punishment of imprisonment could not be awarded to a juristic person like a company, it was permissible to award the punishment of a fine only.

Recent Developments:
Recently, the Centre has set a new target of a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration in cities covered under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) by 2026, updating the earlier goal of a 20 to 30% reduction by 2024.

About The National Clean Air Programme:

  • It was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in January 2019. It is the first-ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
  • It seeks to cut the concentration of course (particulate matter of diameter 10 micrometres or less, or PM10) and fine particles (particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometres or less, or PM2.5) by at least 20% in the next five years, with 2017 as the base year for comparison. It covers 132 non-attainment cities which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Non-attainment cities are those that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years. List of pollutants under NAAQS: PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, CO, NH3, Ozone, Lead, Benzene, Benzo-Pyrene, Arsenic and Nickel.

To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanisms for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution AND To have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

Initiatives Taken By India For Controlling Air Pollution

  • Recently, SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research) has studied post Diwali Air Pollution in four Indian Cities (Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Pune) intending to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up and To help the policy-makers develop mitigation strategies keeping in mind the nation's economic development.
  • For reducing vehicular pollution EV vehicle production is being initiated by the government with a focus on providing infrastructure for EV vehicles. Also, the government is aiming to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up and to help the policy-makers develop mitigation strategies keeping in mind the nation's economic development.
  • Subsidy to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) Machine for reducing stubble burning[11].

Judicial Approach
  • Sitaraman Chhaparia V. State Of Bihar[12]
    A tyre-rethreading plant was set up in the residential area. The said industry was emitting carbon dioxide gas and other harmful gases thus causing Air Pollution and harm to the environment of the locality. The court noticed that the State respondent and Pollution Control Board and the Industry Department of the Government of Bihar paid insincere expression of loyalty to its obligation. Hence, the Court reminded the State of its constitutional obligation and directed the unit to be wound up and the state was to ensure the same.
  • A.P. Gunnies Merchants Association, Hyderabad V. Govt. Of A.P.[13]
    The Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the right to carry on the business in old and used gunny bags is not absolute. In this case, the petitioners were carrying on the activity of dusting and cleaning old gunny bags which was creating environmental pollution in the air. The court upheld that the petitioner needs to shift the business from a thickly populated area to an environmentally safer place.
  • Pollution Control Board Assam V. Mahabir Coke Industry[14]
    The court directed for fixing public accountability of authorities under the Pollution Control Board for dereliction of their duties. In this case, the respondent the coke industry was ordered to be closed down for non-compliance with stipulated standards. It was further directed that the respondent industry could confirm the required standard and inform the court or establish that existing installed facilities were sufficient to meet the standards.

    The three experts' authors of the inspection reports indicated that the emission level of suspended particulate matter (SPS) from the respondent industry conformed to the stipulated standards, whereas the facts appear otherwise. The court held that the authorities under the pollution control board in whom the parliament had reposed confidence must be made answerable if they are guilty of de-relegation of duties and accordingly show cause notice was issued against them for passing necessary directions.
  • Delhi Pollution Control Committee V/S Splendor Landbase Ltd.[15]
    The case involved an environmental dispute between the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and Splendor Landbase Limited, a real estate developer. The DPCC had issued a show-cause notice to the developer for violating environmental laws related to air and water pollution. The developer had allegedly constructed a building without obtaining the necessary clearances and had also discharged untreated sewage into the Yamuna River.

    The NGT, in its judgment, held that the developer had indeed violated environmental norms and ordered them to pay a penalty of Rs. 3 lakhs. The NGT also directed the developer to take corrective measures to rectify the damage caused to the environment.

    The case is significant because it highlighted the need for strict enforcement of environmental laws and regulations in India. It also demonstrated the power of the NGT in adjudicating and resolving environmental disputes.
  • Bihar State Pollution Control V/S Hiranand Stone Works And Ors. [16]
    The case involved an appeal by the Bihar State Pollution Control Board against a judgment of the Patna High Court, which had stayed the closure of stone quarries operated by Hiranand Stone Works and other similar industries because they were causing air pollution.

    The Supreme Court, in its judgment, held that the High Court had erred in staying the closure of the stone quarries and directed the immediate closure of all stone quarries and stone crushers operating in the Rohtas district of Bihar. The Court also directed the Bihar State Pollution Control Board to conduct a survey of the area and take appropriate action against industries causing air pollution.

    The case is significant because it demonstrated the role of the Supreme Court in protecting the environment and ensuring that industries comply with environmental laws and regulations. It also highlighted the need for strict enforcement of environmental norms to prevent air pollution in India.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 is an Indian legislation enacted to control and prevent air pollution in the country. The act was introduced in response to the growing concern over air pollution and its adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The key features of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are:
  • Establishment of Central and State Pollution Control Boards (CPCBs and SPCBs) to enforce the provisions of the act and monitor air pollution levels.
  • The act empowers the CPCBs and SPCBs to inspect premises, collect samples of air and emissions, and take appropriate measures to control air pollution.
  • The act provides for the regulation of industries and factories that emit pollutants into the air. It requires industries to obtain consent from the CPCBs or SPCBs before commencing operations and to adhere to emission standards and other regulations.
  • The act also lays down penalties for non-compliance with its provisions, including fines and imprisonment.
  • The act makes it mandatory for industries to install pollution control equipment and to conduct regular monitoring of emissions to ensure compliance with the prescribed standards.
  • The act empowers the CPCBs and SPCBs to issue directions to industries, government bodies, and individuals to take measures to control air pollution.
  • The act provides for the setting up of Air Quality Control Regions (AQCRs) to monitor and regulate air pollution levels in specific areas.
In conclusion, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 is a crucial legislation in India that aims to control and prevent air pollution. The act has established various regulatory bodies and measures to monitor and control air pollution levels in the country. However, despite these efforts, air pollution continues to be a major problem in India.

Measures to Address Air Pollution:

  • Enforcing stricter regulations and emission standards for industries and vehicles.
  • Encouraging the use of cleaner fuels and renewable energy sources.
  • Promoting public transportation and reducing the number of private vehicles on the roads.
  • Increasing public awareness about the harmful effects of air pollution and the importance of taking measures to reduce it.
  • Promoting the use of green technologies and sustainable practices in industries and households.
  • Encouraging tree plantation and green spaces in urban areas.
In addition, there needs to be better coordination and collaboration between different stakeholders, including government bodies, industries, and citizens, to address the issue of air pollution effectively. By implementing these measures, we can work towards achieving cleaner air and a healthier environment for everyone. Bibliography:
  • Bare Act: - Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • Indian kanoon for Case laws
  • Article: Electric Vehicles - India's Future -
  • Article: What are the offences and punishments under air pollution laws?
  • Article: Delhi Air Pollution: Supreme Court Lists Plea Against Stubble Burning In Punjab On Nov 10
  • Environmental Law by P.S. Jaiswal.
  • (2001) 8 SCC 765
  • (2003) 10 SCC 421.
  • Original application no. 21/2014.
  • A.I.R. 1989 M.P. 82.
  • A.I.R. 1999 H.P. 59
  • (1999) 2 SCC 718
  • A.I.R. 2000
  • Provided that such a person proves that the offence was committed without his/her knowledge and also exercised all due diligence to prevent such commission.
  • Provided that HOD proves that the offence was committed without his/her knowledge and also he exercised all due diligence to prevent such commission.
  • 1975 CRI. L.J. 1148
  • Stubble burning is the act of setting fire crop residue to remove them from the field to sow the next crop. It is practised in areas that use the 'combine harvesting method'.
  • A.I.R. 2002
  • A.I.R. 2001 A.P. 453
  • A.I.R. 2000 9 SCC 344.
  • 23rd January 2012
  • AIR 2005 Pat 62

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