File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Environmental Laws In India: Challenges For Enforcement

There is no absence of law in India but where we lack is the enforcement has been so poor and not satisfactory. There are several steps taken by the judiciary as interpretation under Article 21 including environment under dignified life. The writs can be filed under Article 32 in the Supreme Court and Article 226 in the Supreme Court.[i] Constitution of various national as well as state boards for the performance of various functions.

There are international treaties signed by India such as the Stockholm treaty. For effective implementation of laws, several steps should be taken such as an independent body having legal as well as technical or skilled people. Proper implementation of laws is necessary to keep in mind that development could be achieved while walking on the path of sustainable development.

In their modern era, the world is not only focusing on their rights, and freedom but also on dignified life. The right to have a dignified life and the concept of the welfare state is prominent in present times. Dignified life includes shelter, food, clothing, health, and education. To maintain good health everyone needs a good environment. Protection and conservation of the environment are very necessary to have access to a good environment.

Certain processes such as globalization, industrialization, uncontrollable population growth with greedy needs, and industrialization (most concerned) have deteriorated the environment to the largest extent which is leading to many different problems such as health issues, natural calamities, melting of polarised icecaps which leads to rising sea level and a lot more.

It is not limited to the country's issues but now it has taken a worldwide shape and arising as a bigger problem for the whole world. All the world must be united and certain necessary steps are taken to overcome this problem. India is a developing nation suffering a lot of environmental issues.

India has been a part of such a worthy cause and making certain efforts to overcome the problem and provide its citizen with a better and liveable environment. Working towards the motto of sustainable development for the future generations as well. Looking forward to the implementation and enforcement of laws achieving a goal of sustainable development and better living standards for people.

Environment: The work environment has been defined from the word "environ" which means to surround Environment has been defined as surrounding.[ii] It has been defined under Environment Protection Act of 1986. It includes land, water, and air and the relationship between each other, living creatures, property, plants, and microorganisms. It includes all living and non-living entities.

Environmental laws
There is a collection of laws that keep human interaction with the environment and make rules and regulations to put control on the usage of natural laws. Laws are there to protect the environment from harm and overconsumption. The laws figure out the limit to which natural resources can be exploited.

Legislative steps toward Environment
Indian constitution was enforced on 26 January 1950. At that time there was no provision regarding environmental protection in the constitution as there was not much awareness regarding this as the country has much come out of a long freedom struggle and the main focus was on the development of the country not on the environmental protection because illiteracy was at a peak, people were already harassed economically and need some stability.

The day of prime importance came in the year 1972 when United Nations Conference on Human Environment was held in Stockholm (Stockholm conference). This Declaration on Human Environment was adopted. This was the first major step toward the protection of the environment and the beginning of movement internationally. The treaty considered the need for a common outlook and for the common principles to inspire and guide the preservation and enhancement of the human environment.

India has been a signatory to this treaty and needed to take certain steps toward the protection and improvement of the environment. A 42nd Amendment was made to the constitution in the year 1976 and two articles were added to the constitution that is Article 48A (Directive principle of state policy) and Article 51A (Fundamental duty). Article 48A says that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.

Article 51A imposes a duty on citizens of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Both the sanction laid an obligation on both the states and the citizens to protect the environment. But these sections were not legally binding. Neither the citizens can legally bind the state to perform its functions because 48A is covered under DPSP which is not binding similarly state can not legally bind the citizen to protect the environment and had compassion for living creatures as duties are obligatory but not legally binding.

Thereafter Supreme Court held that under Article 21 Right to life and personal liberty includes the right to have dignified life which further includes the right to have a wholesome environment. The courts in various judgments mentioned that the right to life includes the right to have clean water, the right to have drinking water, and a pollution-free environment. Article 21 has received various interpretations with time.

The right to live in a healthy environment as per Article 21 was first taken into cognizance in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra Vs State of Uttar Pradesh 1985 (Dehradun Quarrying Case)[iii]. In this case, it was held by the Supreme Court stopped the digging (illegal mining) under the Environmental Protection Act, of 1986.

In M.C. Mehta vs Union of India 1987[iv] the Supreme Court declared that the Right to live in a pollution-free environment comes under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Another Article that is 19(1)(g) says about the right to practice any profession or to continue any occupation, trade, or business. This section enables individuals to continue any occupation or trade which might trigger the trade of wildlife animal or their parts. But this right is restricted under Article 19(6) which says that in the interest of the public the state can impose reasonable restrictions in the exercise of their rights.

Apart from the obligation mentioned in the constitution to protect, conserve, and improve the environment, there are more relevant acts are there to fulfill the purpose of this act such as:
Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
This act provides for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution.[v] Air pollution means the presence of any air pollutant where air pollutant includes the presence of any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance in the atmosphere in such a concentration as it may be injurious to human health, other living beings, plants, or property.[vi] Noise has been considered under the Air pollution Act.[1] The excess of sound that is noise harms people, irritate them, and disturbs their mental peace which often disturbs their working life. Disturbances are caused by speakers in marriages and nearby religious places, firecrackers during festivals, and iron and steel industries. This act curbs such air pollution.

The boards constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 shall perform such functions as Central board and State Boards under the Air Pollution Act for achieving the purpose of this act. The State Government may, after consultation with the State Board, by notification in the Official Gazette declare in such manner as may be prescribed, any area or areas within the State as air pollution control area or areas for the purposes of this Act. [vii]

It can impose restrictions on such use of industrial plants under Section 21 no person can operate any industrial plant without prior permission from the state board.[viii] If permission is provided it should be subject certain conditions, not allowed for the emission of Air Pollutant more than the standard laid down by State Board under Section 22. And if failure to follow the provisions of the Air Act several punishments and penalties are mentioned under this act.

In the case of M.C. Mehta vs Union of India, 2001[ix] the court held that the direction to convert all the buses running in Delhi to CNG Mode has been given for the prevention of the health of the citizen which is protected under Article 21.

In another case, M.C. Mehta vs Union of India, 1998[x] in this case restriction was made on commercial vehicles above fifteen years and goods vehicle usage during daytime. In this case, it was also asked to expand the Pre-Mixed Oil Dispenser.

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
This act aims to provide for the protection of wild animals, and birds and to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.[xi] The acts lead to the establishment of national as well as state boards and the prohibition of hunting that includes killing or poisoning, capturing, coursing, and trapping of any wild or captive animal. Injuring or destroying the body of any animal or damaging the eggs or nests of such bird animals or reptiles is also constrained in this act.[xii]

The earlier permission to pick, uproot can be obtained for special such as education, scientific research, collection, and display in a scientific institution. As per this act causing fire, entry into the sanctuary is prohibited, and ban on the use of injurious substances.

The declaration of the area owned by the government after having a consultation with the local communities for the protection of landscape, seascapes, flora and fauna, and their habitat and also the community reserve where the local people or any individual selflessly declare any nongovernmental land not included within any conservation reserve, National Park or sanctuary for the protection of fauna, flora, and tradition. Provision for search, arrest, detention, and penalties that can be imposed is provided in this act if anything contravention to the provisions of this act takes place.

Sansar Chand vs State of Rajasthan, 2010[xiii]
In this case, of the appellant has involved the trading of tigers, leopards, and skins of other animals. The appellant with passing years had developed a gang for the smuggling of animal parts and their skins and a vast network to sell across the border, especially in China. The Supreme Court sees that the activity of the gang resulted in almost extinction of animals and resulted in the destruction of ecological balance. The gang dealing with criminal activities can not be left with leniency.

Motilal vs CBI, 2002[xiv]
In this case, the appeal is regarding whether the Central Bureau of Investigation can investigate an offense under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This act empowers police officers not below the rank of Sub-Inspector to conduct inquiry searches and seize articles. This would mean that Police officers are included under this act. Section 5 which is the delegation of power under the Wildlife Act is empowering the CBI for investigation with the approval of the Central Government.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
This act provides for the prevention and control of water pollution and maintenance of the wholesomeness of water. Pollution in this act means the contamination of water or changes in the physical, chemical, or biological properties of water or discharge of any other liquid gaseous or solid substance into the water as it may likely create a nuisance or render such water to any domestic, commercial, industrial use. The act is various state boards and central boards. Under section 13 there is a provision for the constitution of joint boards of two or more contagious states. The State Board may refuse to grant consent for the establishment of any industry unless the treatment disposal system or the outlet does not follow the conditions imposed by the state board.

Bhavani River vs Sakthi Sugars limited, 1998[xv]
This case was related to the release of effluents in the Bhavani River by the Industry. Tamil Nadu pollution control board issued several directions about the disposal of effluents. The Supreme Court takes a profoundly serious view in respect of the discharge of effluents in the adjoining rivers and mentioned that because of the continuation of activities of industry regarding pollution and no steps taken to prevent the pollution. Not this has become a health hazard and required to be closed and an examination of the nearby area should be made to inform the court about the cost of restitution to the environment.

M.C. Mehta vs Union of India, 1988[xvi]
A Public Interest Litigation was filed stating that Ganga one of the oldest rivers is being polluted to a prominent level. The dependency of the population on the river Ganga is huge approximately four hundred million people depend on Ganga. This means that Ganga is the lifeline of a country like India and the pollution of such a river might have disastrous effects. The court said that various water-borne diseases might affect the health of the public. Industries must ensure that the effluents discharged in the river are properly processed and treated. The municipal corporation was also made liable for being Careless of its responsibilities and not taking necessary steps regarding the released effluent.

Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986
This act provides for the protection and improvement of the environment. Protection of the environment from pollutants including any solid liquid or gaseous substance present in such condition which may be injurious to the environment. This gave the central government immense power to take measures for the protection and improvement of the environment. The central government has the right to enter and inspect at all reasonable times as it considers necessary and to take samples if needed. The central government lay down instructions from time to time about the safe disposal of environmental effluents, and relocation of industry, to collect information regarding and publish data about the pollution.

National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
The act provides for the establishment of the National Green Tribunal for the speedy disposal of cases related to environmental protection and conservation of the other natural resources and for the enforcement of legal rights and to claim compensation and damages for the matters. This act leads to the establishment of a Tribunal for the fulfilment of the purpose of this act.

Tribunal has authority over only civil cases related to the environment and quasi-judicial body and engages in the implementation of enactments specified in schedule 1. The tribunal by order may supply relief and compensation, restitution of property, and restitution of the environment. The tribunal can impose a penalty for failure to follow orders of the tribunal. This act may provide for the provision of compensation, injury to any person, or any damage to the ecology or environment from any accident.

Indian Forest Act, 1927
This act aims to regulate the movement of forest produce and the duty imposed on the forest produce. Acts also mentioned the declaration of any forest land or any wasteland owned by the government as a forest a reserved forest and a protected forest. This act prohibits any fresh clearing, setting fire in any reserved forest, causing damage to the trees, or dragging the timber. Government has the power to make rules about the transit of forest produce. There are several penalties also mentioned for the violation of this act.

Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Humans are very exploitative due to their greedy needs. They are cutting down forest cover to excavate minerals, population rise leads to need for more living space creating concrete jungles everywhere, setting up of industries and factories. All of these lead to loss of forest cover leads to deforestation. The cherry on the piece of cake is air pollution which is making the situation worst and making countries carbon positive. Deforestation is causing an imbalance of ecology to a considerable extent in the country and is a major concern to have a check the deforestation.

Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
The act is to provide for the public liability to supply immediate relief to persons affected by accidents occurring while managing hazardous substances and for matter connected therewith. [xvii] As per the act, there is a liability to provide compensation in certain case on the principle of no-fault liability. This act implies the obligation of the owner to take out insurance policies. According to section 10 of this act, any person who has been authorized by the central government has the right to enter at all reasonable times at any place where a hazardous substance is being managed to check whether directions given under this act are followed or not. [xviii]

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016:
This is an act for the establishment of funds under public accounts and each state and crediting thereto money received from the agencies towards the compensatory afforestation, penal compensatory afforestation, and all other amounts recovered from such agencies.[xix] This concept of creating a public account was ordered by the honourable Supreme Court in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India & Ors, 2012.[xx]

The court also directed the fund would primarily be used for plantations, protection of forests, wildlife protection, and other activities. The act also provides for the constitution of an executive committee and monitoring group to help the National authority and a steering committee and executive committee to help the state.

Challenges for Enforcement
  • Corruption could be a major challenge for the enforcement, especially in developing countries where the government officials who themselves engage in corrupt activities may fail the whole efforts of lawmakers. It has been seen that the public official does not act tolerate Wong's behaviours as a polluter due to a reason for bribery or some future benefit.
  • The carelessness of the departments in smaller issues about the environment is one of the causes of enforcement. There are a lot of small issues in rural areas or small towns which is not considered that important. The reach of the departments in smaller areas is zero.
  • Lack of awareness among uneducated people about the environment is one of the main causes of pollution in rural areas. Water pollution and lack of sanitation in poverty-driven rural areas to even lead to various health problems. Lack of disposal system and proper maintenance method could be one of those challenges.
  • Laws are being made on paper, but it is a lack of political will to implement those properly. In fact, to manage technical work where there is a lack of skilled workforce. Countries like India have set up specialized departments and agencies. Environmental protection is limited to political expression that adequacy.
  • The administrators, bureaucrats, and politicians have always been on a lighter note regarding environmental issues. There are crores of cases pending before the judiciary which even Leads to the pendency of cases for years.
  • Provisions are not permanent solutions. Just imposing heavy penalties or punishment would not work unless it is not acknowledged by the public at large. The boards set up under this act can not impose heavy penalties on the polluter and it is the work of the court only. They are constituted for regulatory or concurrence functions.
  • The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 provides for only civil remedies not for the criminal remedies so there are limitations on authority. It cannot be dealt with Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972 because it is criminal.

The government has taken various steps to protect the environment by framing and enforcing various laws, the including environment as a subject but the goal could not be achieved unless the interaction would be voluntary, or the people won't willingly participate. So, there is a need to create awareness among the people, especially in rural areas related to the disposal of waste and the protection of ecology.

  1. Racolb legal, A study on environmental law, (published on July 30, 2019) <>
  2. Collins, P.H. (1990) 62 Dictionary of Ecology and the Environment
  3. 1985 AIR 652
  4. M.C. Mehta vs Union of India AIR 1987 SC 1037
  5. Preamble of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  6. Section 2(a) of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  7. Section 19(1) of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  8. Section 21 of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  9. AIR 1998 SC 2963
  10. Preamble of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  11. Section 16(c) of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  12. Sansar Chand vs State of Rajasthan, 2011 AIR SCW 372
  13. Moti Lal vs Central Bureau Of Investigation & Anr, AIR 2002 SC 1691
  14. Bhavani River vs Sakthi Sugars Ltd, 1998 AIR 2059
  15. M.C. Mehta vs Union Of India & Ors, 1988 AIR 1115
  16. Preamble of Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  17. Section 10 of Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  18. Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016
  19. T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union Of India & Ors AIR 2012 SC 1254

Written By: Kanak Patware

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly