Environment Protection Act 1986 | UPSC

Environment Protection Act 1986 | UPSC – Environment Protection Act, 1986 Act of the Parliament of India. In the wake of the Bhopal gas Tragedy or Bhopal Disaster, the [Government of India] enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution. Passed in May 1986, it came into force on 19 November 1986.

About Environment Protection Act 1986 :

In this Act, main emphasis is given to “Environment”, defined to include water, air and land and the inter-relationships which exist among water, air and land and human beings and other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property.

  • The Main Reason For This Act Enacting Was Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984 .
  • Due To Bhopal Gas tragedy, the Government of India enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution.
  • The act got passed in March 1986.
  • The Environment Protection Act on 19 November 1986 came into force.
  • The Act was last amended in 1991.
  • The main purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment of 1972.
  • In this Act, the main emphasis is given to “environment”, “pollution”, “pollutants”, and “hazardous substances.
  • The Act is an “umbrella” Act For Various Acts Which Are Enacted For Environment Protection, Example – Water Act And Air Act 
  • Through this Act Central Government gets full power for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment.
  • The act is based on the polluter pays principle.
  • The act gives wide-ranging powers to the Central Government to frame rules for environmental conservation.
  • Central Government has powers to state the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental protection.
Environment Protection Act 1986 | UPSC
Environment Protection Act 1986 | UPSC

The Main Keywords of Environment Protection Act Definition Are : 

  • 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 
  • It means any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to the environment;
Environmental Pollution 
  • It is the presence of pollutant, defined as any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such a concentration as may be or may tend to be injurious to the environment.
Hazardous Substances 
  • It include any substance or preparation, which may cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganisms, property or the environment.

Main Aims and Objectives of the Environment Act

  • Implementation of the decisions made in June 1972 at Stockholm at the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment.
  • Government protection authority creation.
  • Forming coordination of activities of different agencies which are operating under the existing law.
  • Enacting regular laws for environmental protection which have the probability of being unfolded in areas of severe environmental threats.
  • Providing punishment to those promoting endangerment to the human environment, safety and health.
  • Sustainable development of the environment.
  • Achieving the purpose of the Act and protection of life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Environment Protection Act 1986 Main Provisions :

  • The Act explicitly prohibits discharges of environmental pollutants in excess of prescribed regulatory standards.
  • There is also a specific prohibition against handling hazardous substances except those in compliance with regulatory procedures and standards.
  • The Act provides provision for penalties.
  • For each failure or contravention, the punishment included a prison term up to five years or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
  • The Act imposed an additional fine of up to Rs. 5,000 for every day of continuing violation.
  • If a failure or contravention occurs for more than one year, offender may be punished with imprisonment which may be extended to seven years.
  • Section 19 provides that any person, in addition to authorized government officials, may file a complaint with a court alleging an offence under the Act.
  • This “Citizens’ Suit” provision requires that the person has to give notice of not less than 60 days of the alleged offence of pollution to the Central Government.

The Act empowers the centre to “take all such measures as it deems necessary.

By virtue of this Act, Central Government has armed itself with considerable powers which include,

  • Coordination of action by state,
  • Planning and execution of nationwide programmes,
  • Laying down environmental quality standards, especially those governing emission or discharge of environmental pollutants,
  • Placing restriction on the location of industries and so on.
  • Authority to issue direct orders, included orders to close, prohibit or regulate any industry.
  • Power of entry for examination, testing of equipment and other purposes and power to analyse the sample of air, water, soil or any other substance from any place.

Rules Under Environment Protection Act 1986 :

  • Rules 1989 for regulating GM Crops
  • EIA rules, 2006
  • Eco-Sensitive Area(Zone) rules, 1988
  • CRZ rules, 2018 based on Shailesh Nayak Committee

Some Of The Most Important Judgements & Cases Related To Environment Protection Act

Sustainable Development
  • The concept of sustainable development was introduced by the bench of Justices PN Bhagwati and Ranganath Mishra in Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1987 SC 2187.
  • In 1987, RLEK NGO filed a case against quarrying of limestone in the valley.
Water Pollution
  • The pollution of the Ganga river due to the hazardous industries located on its bank got highlighted through a petition filed by advocate M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court.
Air Pollution
  • The Apex Court in “M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (Taj Trapezium Case) AIR 1987 gave judgement in 1996 directing different guidelines banning/ restricting coal & cake usage and diverting the industries towards CNG/ Compressed Natural Gas.
Public Trust and Right to Life
  • In the case of “Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Ors. (1991)”, under Article 21, the Right to Pollution Free Environment was declared as a part of Right of Life .
Wildlife and Forest Protection Case
  • A series of directions from 1995 to 2014 was passed by the Supreme Court in “TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs. Union of India and Ors.” concerning the fact that due to destruction of the forest, the livelihood of forest dwellers in the Nilgiri region was getting affected.
Environmental Awareness and Education Case
  • Cinema halls were ordered to show two free slides on the environment in each of their shows failing which would result in cancellation of their license.
  • This order was given by the Supreme Court in “M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India WP 860/1991”.

List Of Environment Pollution Control Act

There are several pollution control Acts in India. Following are those:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1974.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1975.
  • Transaction of Business) Rules, 1975.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules, 1978.
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1981.
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1982.
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Union Territories) Rules, 1983.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act-1986.
  • Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989.
  • Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989.
  • National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995.
  • Central Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (Procedure for
  • Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996.
  • Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.
  • Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999.
  • Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.





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