The term "Environmental Crimes" does not have a universally accepted definition
and is usually defined based on ease of interpretation. The genesis of such an
idea can be attributed to the harmful acts/omissions responsible for
environmental law violations.
According to Y. Situ and D. Emmons, an environmental crime is "an unauthorised
act or omission that violates the law and is thus subject to criminal
prosecution and criminal sanction." Ecological crimes, according to the United
Nations Crime and Justice Research Institute, illegal activities "include a wide
range of illicit activities, such as illegal wildlife trade, smuggling of
ozone-depleting substances, illicit trade of hazardous waste, illegal,
unregulated, and unethical behaviour" and unreported fishing, and illegal
logging and timber trade. "For an act or omission to be considered an
"Environmental Crime," it must:
What Is Environmental Law? Is There Any Procedural Law In India?
- Cause Direct/Indirect Environmental Damage, And B) Be Prohibited By Law
These interpretative definitions, while objective, are insufficient on their
own. When examining the proposed array of reports available, a few flaws can be
identified: first, the lack of a universally accepted definition creates
uncertainty about a common ground for accepting an act as an environmental
crime; second, the lack of a well-defined area of activities the definition
would encompass; and third, jurisdictional and geographical limitations- what is
a crime in one nation may not be a crime in another.
To answer all these questions Yes, In India we have an environmental protection
act in 1986 and before that, there has been a long journey that environmental
law went through. ENVIRONMENTAL LAW? It can be defined as the set of rules and
regulations which are prescribed by the authorities and under this law leaders
have the power to make rules and function and the distribution of powers to
define the functions and duties of the state.
As we are constantly developing, society needs new rules and regulations that
can restrict and limit some actions, such as reducing waste, reducing polluting
elements, sustainable development and conservation of natural resources.
When the world was developing and countries were using the natural reserve
whichever, way they wanted and that's when things went out of control, In India,
before 1912 there was no fundamental law which was protecting the environment or
- Wild Birds and Animals (Protection) Act, 1912:
Under this act state government had the power to notify in the official
gazette that this kind of animal or bird must be protected and preserved.
- This act was applied throughout the country and under this killing or
capturing, selling or buying of any kind of wild birds or animal was
punishable under section 3 with a fine which may be extended to fifty
Like the wild birds and animal protection act 1912, several laws came after
that. Still, the foundation of environmental protection was laid down after the
1972 United Nations conference on the environment held in Stockholm.
The Stockholm Declaration, which set forth 26 guiding principles, elevated
environmental concerns to the top of the international agenda and signalled the
beginning of a conversation between industrialised and developing nations about
the relationship between global economic development, air, water, and ocean
pollution, and human well-being.
Three Main Categories:
- Global Environmental Assessment Programme (watch plan);
- Environmental management activities;
- International initiatives to assist national and international
assessment and management initiatives.
After the Stockholm Conference, the Department of Science and Technology
established the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning in 1972
as a regulatory body to handle environmental-related issues. The Ministry of
Forests and the Environment was later appointed by this Council (MoEF).
Mrs Indira Gandhi was the first head of state to address the first International
Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972; she voiced deep concern
about the degradation of the environment and eco-imbalances. She also emphasised
that pollution, population and poverty are interrelated problems and there must
be an integrated approach to deal with them. India was also one of the
signatories of the Stockholm Declaration, known as the Magna Carta on the Human
Originally the Indian Constitution of 1950 did not have explicit reference to
environmental protection, so there was no independent and separate provision
dealing with the protection or improvement of the environment. But taking note
of the Stockholm Conference and growing awareness of environmental pollution and
eco-imbalances, the Indian Parliament passed a historic amendment 42nd
Constitution Amendment Act, 1976.
This 42nd Amendment incorporated two significant articles - Articles 48-A and
51-A(g) to protect and improve the environment. it introduced certain changes in
the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. 48-A. Protection and improvement of
environment and safeguarding forests and wildlife.
The State shall make efforts to preserve the nation's forests and wildlife and
protect and improve the environment.
51-A. fundamental duties - Every Indian citizen shall be required to:
(g) to have compassion for all living things and to preserve and enhance the
natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.
Seventh Schedule: List III, Concurrent List:
17-B. Protection of wild animals and birds.
As a result, several State List II entries were moved to List III (Concurrent
List), allowing Parliament to pass laws about environmental issues like forests,
wildlife, population control, family planning, etc. It was necessary to make
such changes to bring uniformity to the law throughout the country.
India's constitutional framework and international commitments reflect the need
to protect and conserve the environment and sustainably use natural resources.
Every Indian citizen is responsible for preserving and enhancing the natural
environment, including forests, lakes, and rivers, under Part IVA of the
Constitution (Article 51A-Fundamental Duties).
Rivers, wildlife, and love for all creatures Additionally, the State shall make
efforts to safeguard the nation's forests and wildlife as well as the
environment, according to Part IV of the Indian Constitution (Article
48A-Directive Principles of State Policies).
Development Of Laws
The MOEF was founded in 1985 and is now the country's top administrative body
for regulating and ensuring environmental protection and establishing its legal
and regulatory framework. Since the 1970s, there have been numerous
environmental laws. The regulatory and administrative centre of the industry is
comprised of the MoEF and the state and federal pollution control boards
(collectively referred to as CPCBs and SPCBs).
Some Of The Important Legislations For Environmental Protection Are As
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984
M.C. Mehta And Anr vs Union of India & Ors on 20 December 1986
- When people started to notice the need for environmental law after the
BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY 1984 . On December 3rd 1984 there was a leakage started
in the union carbide factory which is situated in Bhopal, India there was a
pipe which was leaking METHYL ISOCYANATE GAS (MIC) which was dripping like a yellow substance.
- The worker thought it was just water and nothing serious and they went
on their breaks around 01:00 midnight the smell became a strong order and
the workers felt that their eyes are bored and they can't breathe this
gaseous cloud formed and spread all over Bhopal also known as world's worst
- Union Carbide is an American chemical corporation this is a more than a
100-year-old company they had products like EVEREADY BATTERIES etc. In 1969
union carbide started a factory in Bhopal to make SEVIN, they got permission
from the Indian government for the production but (UCIL) was told to work on an
evacuation plan but they didn't make one.
- In 1980 union carbide stopped the import of MIC gas because the company
was facing severe losses because there were a lot cheaper products available
in the market, they started cost-cutting and to reduce the cost they started
the production of MIC, they reduce the workers, they didn't replace the old
pipes they just repair those and they were making they dangerous product
- In 1981 MOHAMMED ASARAF a worker died due to exposure to MIC and before he
died, he told his friend Journalist Rajkumar Keswani about the dangerous
condition in which the factory is operating, and how server the consequence can
be if anything happened.
- Keswani started his investigation and published a report called 'If Anyone
Refuse to Understand It, It Will Be Their End.' In his report, he stated what
could happen in UCIL if proper safety measures were not taken place. In his
report, he found out that UCIL was making a dangerous chemical which contains
gases like 'Phosgene' which was used in the time of World War 2. MIC is very
dangerous and if it comes in contact with water or air it converts into Methyl
gas which is hazardous for living beings.
He tried to talk and wrote many times
to SC AND CM but no one took him seriously which turns out to be the most
harmful gas tragedy of humankind 'Bhopal Gas Tragedy.' On December 3 1984, more
than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal,
India, immediately killing at least 3,800 people and thousands more,
resulting in significant morbidity and premature death.
- Some half a million survivors suffered respiratory problems, eye
irritation, redness or blindness, and other maladies resulting from exposure
to the toxic gas. Approximately 200,000 persons were exposed, and 3598
deaths have resulted as of November 1989. The main factor contributing to
morbidity appears to be chronic inflammatory damage to the eyes and lungs.
There have been reports of reproductive health issues, including an increase
in spontaneous abortions, as well as psychological issues.
- The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) initially offered India a $5 million
relief fund, but fund, the government turned down the offer and demanded $3.3
billion in 1985. Eventually, an out-of-court settlement was reached in February
1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay $470 million only for damages caused.
- This case laid down the foundation of environmental law in India, when
this tragedy happened there was no law which defined the responsibility
towards the polluter or the boundaries which defined the establishment of
factories near residential areas everyone understood that we needed a law
that must set some boundaries and ground rules, so because there are no
boundaries which were defined, that's why companies and industrialist like
Union Carbide Corporation got away with this crime.
In 1987, M.C. Mehta v. Union of India
18 (The Oleum Gas Leak This case is
based on yet another gas leak that occurred shortly after the disastrous Bhopal
Gas Tragedy. A major leakage of oleum gas was reported in one of the Shriram
Food and Fertiliser Industries' units, causing significant damage to the workers
and people living nearby.
An advocate was also said to have died as a result of the gas leak. The Court
correctly sought to hold the chairman and Managing Director, as well as other
officers, the operator and head of the concerned plant, personally liable for
this mishap. Such officers are frequently regarded as the corporation's mind,
soul, and body.
The outcome of this case, however, was especially disappointing because the
Court later decided to change the First Order. Following that, the Court ruled
that the officials could be exempted from liability if they could demonstrate
that the gas escape was caused by an Act of God, vis major, or sabotage.
On the plus side, the case has significantly impacted the development of
criminal law in environmental jurisprudence, as well as the incorporation of the
tortuous doctrine of absolute liability in India. Also, in another landmark
judgement where the supreme court of India defines the concept of absolute
Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum vs Union of India & Ors 28 August 1996
Citizens complained that untreated effluents from tanneries and other industries
in Tamil Nadu were discharged into rivers. Every day, about 200 tonnes of
leather were produced in tanneries; each kilo used 40 litres of water in the
process, and each litre of water contained 176 different types of toxic acids.
Because of the toxic nature of the effluents, potable water was contaminated.
The river water flowed into the adjacent lands due to rain and flooding in the
nearby town. The nearby lands were mostly used for cultivation and agriculture.
As a result of the effluents, the agricultural land became contaminated. The
supreme court of India held in this case, the industrialists ought to take the
necessary steps for the restoration of the environment.
M.C. Mehta vs Kamal Nath & Ors on 13 December 1996
Also known as the Span Motel case, the Court stated that "one who pollutes the
environment must pay to reverse the damage caused by his acts." It was proven
that the Motel administration changed the course of the river to protect the
Motel from future floods. The Court ruled that the Motel should pay for the
restitution of the area's environment and ecology.
The pollution caused by the Motel's various constructions in the riverbed and on
the banks of the river Beas must be removed and reversed." The Court ordered the
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur (NEERI) to submit
an estimate of the cost of repairing the damage caused by the Motel to the
environment and ecology of the area.
S.Jagannath vs Union of India & Ors on 11 December, 1996
The Court applied the Polluter Pays Principle also known as the Shrimp Farming
case, and issued orders against the shrimp farming culture industry found guilty
of polluting coastal areas. The Court ruled that the shrimp culture industry was
obligated to compensate the affected parties under the Polluter Pays Principle.
The Court directed the Central Government to establish an Authority under
section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to address the situation
created by the shrimp culture industry in the Coastal States and Union
The Court also stated that the aforementioned Authority should assess the
environmental damage in the affected areas, identify the individuals or families
who suffered as a result of the pollution, and determine the amount of
compensation to be paid to them.
The Court ruled that the Authority should determine the amount of compensation
to be recovered from polluters as the cost of repairing the environment.
A shift in environmental jurisprudence from tortious liability to criminal
sanctions for crimes that affect the health and lives of a large number of
people and irreparably harm the environment is urgently needed. Criminals must
not be let off the hook by the courts. It is past time to amend the
environmental provisions to a) include organised environmental crimes as
separate and specific offences and b) tighten the currently lax penalties.
The diverse body of environmental legislation should be consolidated into a
single, focused piece of legislation that specifically addresses environmental
offences and their associated penalties. Corporations' lame excuses continue to
exploit the weak legal framework and degrade the environment.
As a result, it is strongly advised to allow the full application of absolute
liability in environmental offences. Given the heinous, grave, and egregious
nature of environmental crimes, significant efforts should be made to define and
categorise the acts that would result in environmental crime.
The absence of a universally accepted definition, liberal penalties, a weak
legal framework, and judicial activism have all exacerbated the consequences of
such a crime. All of these gaps should be given high priority and investigated
thoroughly. Otherwise, profit-hungry corporations would continue to deteriorate
and harm the environment. After all, it is the serious, irreversible
deterioration of the environment that affects not only the current generation
but also future generations.
It has been observed that there are far too many attempts at environmental
legislation, principles, and doctrine. However, according to the NCRB report,
which shows an increase in environmental crime, this legislation, principles,
and doctrine are insufficient to protect the environment from environmental
Considering the environmental impact of this crime, we must remember that it
also affects individual abuse, defilement violations, money laundering, killings
(as a result of illegal logging), and numerous other related issues.
Environmental crime is a significant impediment to future development. What we
want is a strong integrated system that provides a comprehensive holistic
unified approach and powerful results. It is past time to amend the
environmental provisions to include organised offences and stiffen the currently
People are now everywhere and the never-ending hunger to have more and more is
also the main reason our environment is facing the issue today. greenhouse gas
and the increasing of the core temperature of earth increased the ozone layer
depletion and due to this more radiation is being exposed all these factors are
responsible that we need Environmental law-making law to save our planet.
Development is important but we should be aware that what are we doing with what
we have been given by mother nature, development is part of the change in any
society but we should consider and see Environmental crime and the law in india
: a critical analysis the bigger picture first.
Written By: Ashok Kumar Choudhary
, Indore Institute Of Law
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