Environment and Law

Nearly one-fifth of the world’s population lives in India. Large-scale environmental degradation and resource depletion in the country is directly related to the country’s population. Due to the strain of technological progress and population, environmental pollution refers to the contamination of the components of the earth’s atmosphere that has had a negative influence on nature. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives a person the right to live in a pollution-free environment (Right to life and personal liberty).

When India’s 42nd Constitutional Amendment was passed in 1975, it introduced Article 48-A and Article 51-A to the Constitution. All citizens are required to protect and improve the natural environment, including forest lands, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, as well as to have compassion for living creatures, according to articles 48-A and 51-A, respectively. These Articles fall under the category of Directive Principles of State Policy, which means they are not enforceable. However, judicial activism has prepared the path for them to become enforceable over time.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees life and personal liberty, is construed by the Supreme Court to include a right to a clean and pollution-free environment. In Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar and P.A. Jacob v Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, the Supreme Court recognized the right to pollution-free water and an environment free from noise pollution as part of the Right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.

Environmental protection is addressed by particular criminal measures in several laws. Sections 268 through 294-A of the Indian Penal Code (hereafter referred to as IPC) deal with offenses pertaining to public health, safety, and other matters. The major goal of these regulations is to safeguard public health, safety, and convenience by making acts that damage the environment and endanger an individual’s life illegal.


The phrase “public nuisance” is defined under section 268 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and it is punished under section 290 of the IPC. As a result of these laws, anybody who commits an act or omission that causes harm to another person by damaging the environment can be prosecuted. Section 268 of the IPC also makes noise pollution illegal. The court decided in K Ramakrishnan v. State of Kerala.18 that smoking in public places is considered a public nuisance. It is punished under the Indian Penal Code section 290. In Murli S. Deora v. Union of India. As a result of negligence, a person is at risk of contracting an illness that is harmful to life. Sections 269 through 271 of the Indian Penal Code apply to these acts. 269 and 271 provide for a maximum six-month jail term and a fine (or both). In accordance with Section 277, it is possible to avoid water contamination. Section 277 imposes a maximum sentence of three months in jail or a maximum fine of 500 rupees or both. The pollution produced by malicious acts is also punished under sections 426, 430, 431, and 432 of the IPC.

For violations of the law enshrined in the two basic laws, there are punitive penalties. Act of 1974 on the prevention and control of pollution by water and the Environment Protection Act of 1986 on the protection of the environment against pollution. Water Pollution Act, Section 47, makes a person vicariously responsible for an infraction committed by a corporation if that person is in control of the company’s activities or is responsible for its behavior. For a case to be brought under section 47 of the Act, this is an essential element. To be eligible for a defense under this provision, an accused must have had no knowledge or agreement to the crime in the issue.

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The Supreme Court has ruled that the complainant must state in the complaint petition that the accused is directly in control of and responsible to the corporation for the conduct of the company’s operations. The court stated, “If the aforementioned required element is lacking, then the prosecution filed against the accused cannot be upheld.”
Environmental Pollution and CrPC

Pollution of the environment is a form of public nuisance. The word “public nuisance” is defined under Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code of 1960 as “an act or omission of any conduct that causes annoyance or common damage to the public.” In basic terms, it is an act that disregards the public’s common welfare and damages or irritates them by doing so, whereas private nuisance is an act that only harms a few individuals rather than the whole public. The punishment for public disturbance is outlined in Section 290 of the Indian Penal Code, 1960.

Landmark Judgments

In Ramachandra Malojirao Bhonsle v. Rasikbhai Govardhanbhai Raiyani (2000), the petitioner, who acquired a ground floor flat in a building prior to the installation of an electric motor, filed a complaint alleging that the usage of an electric motor by other flat members was causing him annoyance. The problem was brought to the attention of a Subdivisional magistrate, who ordered that the vehicle be moved from below the flat to within the premises so that it does not pollute the environment. The ruling was appealed on the grounds that it lacked authority under Section 133, which only applies to public nuisances and not private nuisances. The Gujarat High Court stated that the magistrate must keep in mind that no order may be issued under Section 133 if the nuisance is not generated in a public area.

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Nuclear bombs dropped by American planes on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final stages of World War II in 1945 caused irreparable environmental damage. The risk to human life increases as a result of the constant innovation and improvement of technology. So, the law must keep up with society’s and individuals’ needs. Environmental protection is today a global concern, not restricted to any one country or region, therefore it is no longer a local issue.

As a result of the various environmental laws and regulations, there is a great lot of uncertainty and disarray as to which remedy or punishment to apply. Climate change and global warming pose a major threat to the globe, and a comprehensive environmental law is urgently needed to protect the environment and to penalize those who violate it

Author: Shreyas Nair,
Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur / First Year / Law

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