Environment Protection Act (EPA)

  • IASbaba
  • July 7, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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In News: The Environment Ministry proposes to soften the provisions of punishment for the violations of Environment Protection Act (EPA)

  • It proposes to replace a clause that provides for imprisoning violators with one that only requires them to pay a fine.
  • This does not apply to violations that cause grave injury or loss of life.
  • The proposed fines, in lieu of imprisonment, are also 5-500 times greater than those currently levied.

Existing Provisions

  • The Act currently says that violators will be punishable with imprisonment up to five years or with a fine up to ₹1 lakh, or with both.
  • Were violations to continue, an additional fine of up to ₹5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction would be levied.
  • There’s also a provision for jail terms to extend to seven years.

The two major changes proposed are

  • Appointing an “adjudication officer” who would decide on a penalty in cases of environmental violations
  • In case of serious violations which lead to grievous injury or loss of life, they shall be covered under the provision of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • The amendments also propose the creation of an “Environmental Protection Fund’’ in which the amount of penalty will be remitted

Reasons for proposed amendments

  • An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment found that Indian courts took between 9-33 years to clear a backlog of cases for environmental violations.
  • Beginning 2018, close to 45,000 cases were pending trial and another 35,000 cases were added in that year.
  • Ministry stated that the rationale governing the amendments is that it had received suggestions to decriminalise existing provisions of the EPA to weed out fear of imprisonment for simple violations.

The Environment (Protection) Act (EPA)

  • EPA was enacted in 1986 with the objective of providing the protection and improvement of the environment.
  • The Central government is also empowered to:
  • Plan and execute a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
  • Lay down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects.
  • Lay down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources.
  • The restriction of areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall/ shall not be carried out subject to certain safeguards.
  • The Central Government may appoint officers under this Act for various purposes and entrust them with the corresponding powers and functions.
  • The central government as per the Act has the power to direct:
  • The closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process
  • The stoppage or regulation of the supply of electricity or water or any other service
  • Restriction on Pollutant Discharge: No individual or organisation shall discharge/emit or permit to discharge/emit any environmental pollutant in excess of the prescribed standards.
  • Compliance with Procedural Safeguards: No individual shall handle or shall be caused to handle any hazardous substance except in accordance with the procedure and without complying with the safeguards, as prescribed.
  • Powers of Entry and Inspection: Any person empowered by the Central Government shall have a right to enter (with the assistance deemed necessary) at any place:
  • Establishment of Environmental Laboratories: The Central Government, as per the Act, is entitled to recognize any laboratory or institute as environmental laboratories to carry out the functions entrusted to such a laboratory.
  • Penalties for Offences: Non-compliance or Contravention to any of the provisions of the Act is considered as an offence.
  • Any offences under the EPA are punishable with the imprisonment of upto five years or a fine upto one lakh rupees or both.
  • Cognizance of offences: No Court shall take cognizance of any offence under this Act except on a complaint made by:
  • The Central Government or any authority on behalf of the former

Source: The Hindu

Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which one of the following has been constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986? (2022)

  1. Central Water Commission
  2. Central Ground Water Board
  3. Central Ground Water Authority
  4. National Water Development Agency

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