Two international conferences on environment and development, namely the Stockholm
Conference in 1972 and another at Rio de Janerio in 1992 have influenced environmental
policies in most countries including India.
In the country, environmental laws have evolved mainly in four policy periods :
1. Pre Independence Period to 1947.
2. From Independence to Stockholm Conference (1947-1972).
3. From Stockholm Conference to Bhopal Disaster (!972 - 1984).
4. Bhopal Tragedy (1984) to 1998.
There were not too significant and major legislations relating to environmental protection
during the first two time phases.
However, the Indian Penal Code 1860, enacted during the British rule dealt with offenses
affecting public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals. You may very well see
some of the earliest legislations.
From the onset of independence in 1947 to the Stockholm conference in 1972, another set
of important legislations were passed such as The Factories Act, 1948; The Prevention of
Food Adulteration Act, 1954; The River Boards Act, 1956 etc.
In 1972, the UN Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm exerted major
influence on environmental legislations in India. The Government of India took a number
of steps to implement the decisions taken at the Conference by means of amendments to
the Constitution, new legislations relating to environmental protection and creation of
institutions for implementing the legislations.
The 42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976, inserted specific provisions for
environmental protection in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy and
Fundamental Duties under Article 48A and Article 51A(g) respectively.
Article 48A enunciates that ‘the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the
environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country’.
Article 51A(g) (Fundamental Duties): ‘To protect and improve the natural environment
including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures’.
Some of the important legislations that followed the Stockholm Conference were:
THE WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972
THE WATER (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1974
THE FOREST CONSERVATION ACT, 1980
THE AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1981
But, in the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984 which claimed more than 3000
lives, the ENVIRONMENT (PROTECTION) ACT, 1986 was passed. The Statement of
Objects and Reasons of this Act refers to the decisions taken at the Stockholm
Conference in June 1972 and expresses concern about the decline in environmental
quality, increasing pollution, loss of vegetal cover and biological diversity, excessive
concentrations of harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere, growing risks of
environmental accidents and threats of life system.
Presently, the EPA is the most effective and bold measure to fight the problem of
environmental menace in the country. According to this Act, environment includes water,
air, and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between water air, and
land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro organism and property.
First chapter dealing with preliminary provision. It contains the definitions of various
entities that are related to environment, under S/2.
Second Chapter of the Act deals with the Role of Central Govt. to take measures for
environment protection and its improvement along with the economic development. This
may primarily includes appointment of officers (u/s 3 & 4); powers to give directions
(U/S 5); rules to regulate environmental pollution (U/S 6); laying down of procedures and
standards for industrial waste, emissions, hazardous waste etc (U/S 7,8,9)
Third chapter deals with Prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution
and as per the guidelines U/S 6, a person running an industry or operation cannot emit or
discharge environmental pollutants in excess of the permissible limit. Central government
or its officers may take samples of air, water, soil or other substance from any factory for
the purpose of analysis and upon failure to satisfy the norms, shall liable to be proceeded
against and punished accordingly.
U/S 15, any failure to comply with any of the provisions of the Act, a person is liable to
imprisonment for upto 5 years or fine up to 1 lakh rupees or both. In subsequent offences,
imprisonment can be extended upto 7 years and fine upto 5000 rupees.
The Act confers immunity to Govt officers for any act done under the provisions of this
Act or powers vested in them or functions assigned to them. But in the commission of the
offence by a Government Department, the Act holds the Head of the Department as guilty
of the offence unless the head of the Department proves that the offence was committed
without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of
With respect to lodging a complaint U/S 16, the Act empowers any authorised person of
the Board or any person who gives a notice of at least 60 days.
IN my project , I’ve also dealt with AIR ACT, WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972
AND FOREST CONSERVATION ACT 1980.
Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 known as the AIR ACT is an
appropriate step for the preservation of the natural environment on the Earth which
includes the preservation of the quality of air and control of air pollution. In other words,
this is an Act to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
Next up is the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 which was passed to prevent
deforestation, which resulted in ecological imbalance and environmental
deterioration. It prevents even the state governments and any other authority de-
reserve a forest which is already reserved. It prohibits forestland to be used for non-
forest purposes, except with the prior approval of the central government.
Lastly, The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 which was enacted under the
provisions of Article 252 to prevent the decline of wild animals and birds, prohibits the
poaching of certain animals except for the purpose of education or scientific research. In
respect of certain wild animals, license is made a prerequisite for their hunting. It
provides that a state government may declare any area to be a sanctuary or as a national
park if it considers that such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral,
geomorphological, natural or zoological significance for protecting, propagating or
developing wild life or its environment.