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WATER (PREVENTION & CONTROL) ACT 1974

 
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It was the foremost legislation which methodically dealt with issues of water pollution in India. The objective of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) is to provide for the prevention and control of Water Pollution and the maintenance or restoration of the wholesomeness of water. To fulfil this objective, the Act provides for the establishment of the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards. The Boards are assigned functions and conferred with powers so that the objective of the Act can be fulfilled. The Act was later amended in order to align it with the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

 

Important Definitions  

  • Water Pollution- is contamination of water or alteration of the physical, chemical, or biological properties of water or discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or of any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water, directly or indirectly, or is likely to create a nuisance, or render such water harmful or injurious to public health or safety or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agriculture or any other legitimate uses, or to the life and health of animals or plants or of aquatic organisms.

  •  Trade effluent- any liquid, gaseous or solid substance which is discharged from any premises used for carrying on any industry, operation or process or treatment and disposal system, other than domestic sewage.

  •  Sewage Effluent- is effluent from any sewerage system or sewage disposal works and includes sullage from open drains.

  •  Stream- includes rivers, water courses (whether flowing or dry), inland waters, subterranean waters and sea or tidal waters.

Important Provisions of the Act

  • The Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Boards have legal personalities of their own and can acquire and dispose of property, can sue and be sued.

  • The Act gives the State Pollution Control Boards the responsibility to establish and/ or modify the standards that have to be complied with when sewage and trade effluent is discharged.

  •  The Act establishes a permit system under which persons are issued Consent to Operate their industrial units. The industrial units have to carry out their operations with the standards set by the State Boards under the Consent to Operate and in case the discharge exceeds such standards, then the persons are liable to be imposed with penalties which include fines and imprisonment.

  • The Act grants the State Pollution Control Boards or any officer empowered by them the power to take for the purpose of analysis samples of water from any stream or well or samples of any sewage or trade effluent which is passing from any plant or vessel or from or over any place into any such stream or well. The Act also provides the process to be followed once such a sample is collected.

  •  The Act grant a person empowered by a State Pollution Control Board the power to enter and inspect whether operations are being carried as per the provisions of the Act and its corresponding or any notice, order, direction or authorisation served, made, given, or granted under the Act. Such a person can also ask and examine any plant, record, register, document or any other material object or for conducting a search of any place in which he has reason to believe that an offence under this Act or the rules made thereunder has been or is being or is about to be committed. The person can also seize any such plant, record, register, document or other material object, if he has reason to believe that it may furnish evidence of the commission of an offence under the Act.

  •  Section 24 of the Act expressly prohibits the use of streams or wells for disposal of polluting waters.

  •  Power to order closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry- The Act gives the power to the Boards to issue directions for the closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, and the power to stop orregulate the supply of electricity, water or any other service.

  •  Where an offence under the Act is committed by a Company, every person who at the time at which the offence was committed was in charge and was responsible to the Company will be deemed to be guilty of the offence, unless such person(s) can prove that the offence was committed without their knowledge or that they have exercised due diligence to prevent the offence.

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981

 

The objective of this Act is to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. To fulfil this objective, the Act provides for the establishment of the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards. The Boards are assigned functions and conferred with powers so that the objective of the Act can be fulfilled. The Act is mirrored on the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Boards are constituted on the same lines of the Water Act with the jurisdiction of the State Boards common under both the Acts.

 

Important Definitions

  •  Air Pollutant- any solid, liquid or gaseous substance (including noise) present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment.

  •  Approved Appliances- any equipment or gadget used for the bringing of any combustible material or for generating or consuming any fume, gas of any particulate matter and approved by the State Board.

  •  Automobile- any vehicle powered either by internal combustion engine or by any method of generating power to drive such vehicle by burning fuel.

  •  Control Equipment- any apparatus, device, equipment or system to control the quality and manner of emission of any air pollutant and includes any device used for securing the efficient operation of any industrial plant.

  •  Industrial Plant- any plant used for any industrial or trade purposes and emitting any air pollutant into the atmosphere.

  •  Emissions - Any solid or liquid or gaseous substance coming out of any chimney, duct or flue or any other outlet

Important Provisions

  • The Act empowers the State Pollution Board to prescribe, in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board, standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere from industrial plants and automobiles or for the discharge of any air pollutant into the atmosphere from any other source whatsoever not being a ship or an aircraft.

  •  The State boards are empowered to ask for accurate information, to have its inspectors enter, inquire and verify compliance of standards, take samples of emissions from any chimney or duct, secure analyses of the sample taken and punish the offenders. The State Government is also empowered to declare any area within the State as an air pollution control area.

  •  No person can establish or operate any industrial plant in an air pollution control area without the previous consent of the State Board. In case the establishment of such an industrial unit is permitted, then the person operating the industrial plant must ensure that no emissions are made in excess of the standards laid down by the State Board. Non-compliance with the conditions will lead to the cancellation of the consent which, in turn, raises the culpability and liability of the offending individual or industry.

  •  Power to order closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry- The Act gives the power to the Boards to issue directions for the closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, and the power to stop orregulate the supply of electricity, water or any other service.

  •  Where an offence under the Act is committed by a Company, every person who at the time at which the offence was committed was in charge and was responsible to the Company will be deemed to be guilty of the offence, unless such person(s) can prove that the offence was committed without their knowledge or that they have exercised due diligence to prevent the offence.

Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986

 

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 was passed by the Indian Government in the wake of the Bhopal Gas disaster. A need was to felt to provide a comprehensive environmental law as the previous enactments all dealt with specific aspects. There needed to be an umbrella legislation designed to provide a framework for the Central Government and the Act helped harmonize the activities of various central and state authorities that had been established under previous laws. The Act also delegated wide powers to the executive to frame necessary rules and regulations.

 

Important Definitions

  •  Environment includes water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property.

  •  Environmental pollutant means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment.

  • Environmental pollution means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant.

  • Handling, in relation to any substance, means the manufacture, processing, treatment, package, storage, transportation, use, collection, destruction, offering for sale, conversion, transfer or the like of such substance.

  •  Hazardous substance means any substance or preparation which, by reason of its chemical or physico-chemical properties or handling, is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism property or the environment.

Important Provisions

  • The Act empowers the Central Government who through the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) can prescribe standards for air, water or soil quality; the maximum allowable limits for emissions or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources, devise procedures and safeguards for handling hazardous substances, formulate rules for locating industry, devising procedures and safeguards for preventing accidents and providing remedial measures in case of accidents.

  • The Act expressly states that persons carrying on industry, operations or process, is obligated to ensure that no emission or discharge of environmental pollutants is made in excess of the prescribed standards. In cases where discharge of an environmental pollutant occurs in excess of the prescribed standards, or there is an apprehension of this occurring due to an accident or some other unforeseen event, then the person who is in charge at that particular time is responsible for preventing and/ or taking steps to mitigate environmental pollution due to the said discharge. It is the responsibility of the person to intimate the occurrence of the discharge to the CPCB/SPCB (Central/State Pollution Control Board), and provide all possible assistance to the regulatory agencies to counter the ill effects of the discharge. All expenses incurred by the regulatory agency in undertaking remedial measures may be recovered from the polluter.

  • The Central Government can empower persons to enter and inspect industrial sites and samples of air, water, soil or any other substance from the premises of the industrial unit. The person can also seize any such plant, record, register, document or other material object, if he has reason to believe that it may furnish evidence of the commission of an offence under the Act or for prevention or mitigation of any environmental pollution.

  •  The Act empowers the Central Government to establish or recognize one or more laboratories or institutes as Environmental laboratories. The samples collected are to be sent to such labs established or recognized by the Central Government by publishing a notification in the Official Gazette.

Penalties under the Act

 

The Act provides that any person who fails to comply with or contravenes any of the provisions of the Act, or the Environment Protection Rules, 1986, or any orders or directions issued thereunder, shall, in respect of each such failure or contravention, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both, and in case the failure or contravention continues, with additional fine which may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention.

 

If the failure or contravention continues beyond a period of one year after the date of conviction, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.

 

Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991

 

The Public Liability Insurance Act (PLIA) came into force with effect from April 1, 1991. The Act deals with accidents caused by hazardous substances and its objective is to provide immediate relief to the persons affected by accidents that have occurred due to the handling the hazardous substances. In case death or injury is caused to an individual due to an accident, the person who owns or controls the hazardous substance is liable to give relief as is specified in the Schedule of the Act. The Act is based on the principle of No Fault Liability as set down by the Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India.

 

The relief as specified in the Schedule of the Act is as follows:

  •  Reimbursement of medical expenses incurred up to a maximum of Rs. 12,500 in each case.

  •  For fatal accidents the relief will be Rs. 25,000 per person in addition to reimbursement of medical expenses if any, incurred on the victim up to a maximum of Rs. 12,500.

  •  For permanent total or permanent partial disability or other injury or sickness, the relief will be (a) reimbursement of medical expenses incurred, if any, up to a maximum of Rs. 12,500 in each case and (b) cash relief on the basis of percentage of disablement as certified by an authorised physician. The relief for total permanent disability will be Rs. 25,000.

  • For loss of wages due to temporary partial disability which reduces the earning capacity of the victim, there will be a fixed monthly relief not exceeding Rs. 1,000 per month up to a maximum of 3 months: provided the victim has been hospitalised for a period of exceeding 3 days and is above 16 years of age.

  • Up to Rs. 6,000 depending on the actual damage, for any damage to private property.

Important Definitions

  • Accident- means an accident involving a fortuitous, sudden or unintentional occurrence while handling any hazardous substance resulting in continuous, intermittent or repeated exposure to death, of or injury to, any person or damage to any property but does not include an accident by reason only of war or radio-activity.

  •  Handling- handling in relation to any hazardous substance means the manufacture, processing, treatment, package, storage, transportation by vehicle, use, collection, destruction, conversion, offering for sale, transfer or the like of such hazardous substance.

  • Hazardous substance- means any substance or preparation which is defined as hazardous substance under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986), and exceeding such quantity as may be specified, by notification, by the Central Government;

  • Owner means a person who owns, or has control over handling any hazardous substance at the time of accident and includes,-

    1. in the case of firm, any of its partners;

    2.  in the case of an association, any of its members; and

    3. in the case or a company, any of its directors, managers, secretaries or other officers who is directly in charge of, and is responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company

Important Provisions

  • The Act imposes the duty on every owner of an industry to take out insurance policies to cover such accidents before they start handling any hazardous substance. The insurance policy should be renewed from time to time before the expiry of the period of validity thereof so that the insurance policies may remain in force throughout the period during which such handling continues.

  • It is pertinent to note that no insurance policy taken out by an owner should be for a amount less than the amount of the paid-up capital of the under taking handling any hazardous substance and owned or controlled by that owner and more than the amount, not exceeding fifty crore rupees, as may be prescribed.

Persons who can make an Application under the Act

 

An application for claim or relief may be made-

  • by the person who has sustained the injury;

  • by the owner of the property to which the damage has been caused;

  • where death has resulted from the accident, by all or any of the legal representatives of the deceased; or

  • by any agent duly authorised by such person or owner of such property or all or any Of the legal representatives of the deceased, as the case may be:

In case where all the legal representatives of the deceased have not joined in any such application for relief, the application shall be made on behalf of or for the benefit of all the legal representatives of the deceased and the legal representatives who have not so joined shall be impleaded as respondents to the application.

 

Penalties under the Act

 

The punishment for violation of the Act is imprisonment for a minimum of 18 months, extendable to six years or a fine of not less than one lakh rupees or both. In case of a subsequent the punishment for violation of the Act is imprisonment for a minimum of two years, extendable to seven years and a fine of not less than one lakh rupees.

 
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