3P's: Polluter Pay Principle
The World Commission on Environment and Degradation on its report, Our Common
Future stated that the cost of repairing the environment can be paid by
internalisation of an enterprise. Herein, internalisation in economic context
means that the polluter bears the costs himself and does not delegate the work
to an agent. The report mentioned that the enterprise would be encouraged to
invest in taking preventive, restorative and compensatory measures.
The polluter pay principle was first introduced by the Organisation of
Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) in 1972. The report stated that the
polluter is responsible for the controlling and prevention of pollution
associated with the process of the factory. Pollutants were soon recognised by
the World Commission on Environment and Development as a form of waste. Hence,
dissemination of the pollutants into nature was considered as an inefficiency of
industrial production. So the implementation of 'polluter pays principle' was
used as a strong economic, administrative and legal tool to restrain the
Concept of Polluter Pay PrincipleThe Polluter Pays Principle imposes liability on a person who pollutes the
environment to compensate for the damage caused and return the environment to
its original state regardless of the intent.
Today, the Polluter Pays Principle is one of the core principles of sustainable
development. It is also one of the fundamental principles governing modern
environmental law and policy, underpinning most of the regulations imposed on
potential polluters affecting land, water and air. The Polluter Pays Principle
is often applied as a liability and compensation mechanism which can also act as
an incentive for potential polluters to implement whatever measures deemed
necessary to prevent potential pollution, comply with regulations, and avoid
View of the Indian Judiciary
The Indian Judiciary has incorporated the Polluter Pays Principle as being a
part of the Environmental Law regime is evident from the judgments passed.
Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action vs. Union of India 1996 (3) SCC
The Court held that once the activity carried on is hazardous or inherently
dangerous, the person carrying on such activity is liable to make good the loss
caused to any other person by his activity irrespective of the fact whether he
took reasonable care while carrying on his activity. The rule is premised upon
the very nature of the activity carried on.
Vellore Citizens' Welfare Forum vs. Union of India 1996(5) SCC 647
The Court interpreted the meaning of the Polluter Pays Principle as the absolute
liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims
of the pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation.
Remediation of the damaged environment is part of the process of 'Sustainable
Development' and as such the polluter is liable to pay the cost to the
individual sufferers as well as the cost of reversing the damaged ecology."
The Oleum Gas Leak case (M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India) AIR 1987 SC 1086
The Court laid down that an enterprise engaged in a hazardous or inherently
dangerous industry which poses a potential threat to the health and safety of
persons working in the factory and to those residing in the surrounding areas,
owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that no harm
results to any one on account of hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the
activity which it has undertaken.
The enterprise is absolutely liable to compensate for such harm and irrespective
of all reasonable care taken on his account. The larger and more prosperous the
enterprise, greater must be the amount of the compensation payable for the harm
caused on account of an accident in the carrying on of the hazardous or
inherently dangerous activity by the enterprise.
M. C. Mehta vs Kamal Nath & Ors (1997)1SCC388
The Court held that pollution is a civil wrong and is a tort committed against
the community as a whole. Thus, any person guilty of causing pollution has to
pay damages (compensation) for restoration of the environment and ecology. Under
the Polluter Pays Principle, it is not the role of Government to meet the costs
involved in either prevention of such damage, or in carrying out remedial
action, because the effect of this would be to shift the financial burden of the
pollution incident to the taxpayer.
It is pertinent to mention that Polluter Pays Principle in no form, a pass for
industries to cause pollution. It is rather a way to prevent environmental
degradation. The need of the hour is to protect the environment and not exploit
our mother nature in the name of development. We must endeavour to achieve
sustainable development without compromising our surroundings.
NGT must strive to create a sense of fear among the industries and quick action
should be taken against whosoever is polluting the environment. Relevant steps
should be taken to ensure that aggrieved people are being paid enough
compensation. And lastly, we must not treat PPP solely as a principle which
deals with compensation but as a principle which would help us safeguard our
environment for the future generation.
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