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Detailed analysis of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


  • The word Environment was instilled in our vocabulary as early as 6th class, in schools and the basic meaning of this term is ‘Everything which surrounds us, be it living or non-living, is called our Environment’.

  • But the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 Act has clarified the scope of the word Environment. This set of rules came into existence on November 19, 1986, and was implemented on 23rd May 1986, which is in the 37th year of independent India, by way of issuing a notice in the Official Gazette, by the Central Government. This Act aims to safeguard and regulate the components of the Environment.

  • The foundation of this act was laid down in the June of 1972, at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm. This applies to the whole of India. This conference emphasised the need to establish this act to provide much-needed protection, from impending danger to every being, be it living or non-living, included in our environment.

  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 defines Environment in Section 2(a) as a term which comprises the following:

  1. Water

  2. Air

  3. Land

  4. Plants

  5. Microorganisms

  6. Property etc.

  7. Interdependence of all the above-mentioned components with each other

List of the important provisions:

  1. Chapter 2 comprises Sections 3 to Section 6 which highlights the ‘General Powers of the Central Government.

  2. Chapter 3 includes Section 7 to Section 17 talks about the ‘Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution’.

  3. According to Chapter 4, Section 18 to 26 emphasizes the Miscellaneous provisions.

Chapter 2:

Section 3:

According to this Section, there are main 14 matters related to which The Central Government has the authority to establish any guideline as required, and they are as follows:

  1. Harmonization of the activities done by the State Government, with that of other officials, either the mentioned in this Act or any other Act which has the same goal as that of The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, which is to safeguard and regulate the elements of the Environment.

  2. The organization of an event at the national level for the ‘Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution. To understand what Environment Pollution is, we first need to understand what is Environmental Pollutant. Any substance, in any state (solid, liquid, gas), that causes damage or poses a threat to the Environment then that Substance will be called an Environmental Pollutant (Section 2(b)). This Act states that the term Environment Pollution means the availability of Environment Pollutant in the Environment (Section 2 (b)).

  3. Setting the benchmark to which the quality of the Environment has to keep up.

  4. Establishing rules regarding the eradication or disposal of Environmental Pollutants in any way deemed fit.

  5. Limiting or prohibiting the industry’s operations which may become a cause of Environmental Pollution in particular localities.

  6. Creating provisions for the prevention of mishaps, which can lead to a gain in Environmental Pollution. Furthermore, provisions for remedies in the case of such mishaps are also to be made.

  7. Formation of the screen to regulate the maintenance /’handling’ of dangerous material/ ‘Hazardous which may become a potential threat to the Environment.

A) Handling: Section 3 (d) states that handling any substance means performing the functions, right from the creation of such substance to the disposal or selling of such substance, with the utmost care so that it no longer poses a threat to the environment.

B) Hazardous substance: According to Section 3(e), The term Hazardous substance means any substance which may cause damage to the elements of the Environment like plants and human beings because of its chemical nature.

8. Securitization of all the procedures and things which are a part of the manufacturing process and which are/can be a potential danger to the Environment.

9. Facilitating and Funding the research in the field of the Environment.

10. Examination of any place, equipment, process etc, by notifying the concerned Authority, Officer or Person in the interest of the aim of Chapter 3 of this Act.

11. Creation and acknowledgement of Environmental Laboratories and other authorities which are assigned duties to perform under this act.

12. Gathering and distribution of the data relating to Environmental Pollution.

13. Formation of any rules as deemed fit in accrual with Chapter 3 of this Act.

14. Any other provision is needed to be madly by the aim of this Chapter, which is ‘Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution.

The Central Government has the power to appoint Officials to perform functions (including activities mentioned above and in Section 5) by issuing a notice in the Official Gazette.

Section 4:

This Section deals with the employment of Officials and the assignment of tasks which they have to perform according to this act, by the Central Government. Such Officials and authorities will draw their power from and remain accountable and responsible to the Central Government.

Section 5:

This Section provides authority to the Central Government to assign ‘any duty’ or empower to enforce a rule, by providing guidelines in writing to any Official or Authority as appointed according to Section 4, as it deems fit.

The term ‘Any Duty’ is further clarified in this act as the power to EITHER command the cease, ban or regulate any establishment or procedure that might be a threat to the Environment, OR restrict the distribution of electricity, water etc. in the interest of safeguarding the Environment.

Section 6:

This Section particularly states guidelines relating to controlling and managing Environmental Pollution. There are 6 matters which are related to Environmental Pollution and are dealt with by this Section and they are as follows:

1. Establishing a benchmark up to which the quality of all the elements of the Environment has to be kept up, regarding the locality and usage of such elements.

2. Putting restrictions on certain Environmental Pollutants like noise etc.

3. Maintenance and protection of Hazardous substances.

4. Banning or limiting the presence of Hazardous substances in particular places.

5. Banning the formation or putting restraints on the working of Industries that might cause an increase in the number of Environmental Pollutants in particular areas.

6. Formation of provisions relating to prevention from mishaps which can be a reason for Environmental pollution and establishment of remedial provisions in this regard.

Chapter 3

Section 7:

This Section prohibits the production or dissemination of Environmental Pollutants beyond the ‘prescribed’ limits. The term ‘Prescribed’ is defined in Section 2 (g) and it means ‘by laws laid down in this act’.

Section 8:

According to this provision, only the prescribed method laid down by this act is to be used for the maintaining or handling of dangerous matter or hazardous substances that may cause a threat to the environment.

Section 9:

• This Section imposes responsibility and accountability over the owners of the industries and also upon the office of such industries who are responsible for the dissemination of the Environmental Pollutants, in case the emission of Environmental Pollutants from such industry crosses the prescribed limits or is expected to cross prescribed limits. In such a case as mentioned above, the owner of such industry and the official of that industry who is responsible for such emission will be bound to do the following:

  1. Inform the concerned authority or official appointed by the Central Government, by this act.

  2. To provide all the cooperation and support that is required by such authority to handle this condition.

  • Upon gaining information regarding such a situation in writing from any industry, the concerned Authority or Official shall take all the necessary action in the interest of controlling the Environmental Pollution.

  • The Funds required to deal with such a situation by the authority or the officials, assigned by the Central Government, are to be recovered from the official of the industry, who is responsible for the Environmental Pollution or because of whom the possibility of Environmental pollution arose.

Section 10: Authority to Investigate and Seize:

According to this Section, the Officials/ Authorities appointed by the Central Government, have the power to examine by going to any locality to perform the following functions as assigned by the Central Government:

  • Scrutinizing the activities that are being performed in that locality and also checking that the procedures which are being performed there are by the provisions of this Act.

  • Analysis, followed by the seizure of any equipment, data, and Industrial plants, if deemed necessary on the following grounds:

  1. That such seizure can prevent the ongoing breaking of the rules, which are laid down by this act and excess production and dissemination of Environmental Pollutants than the prescribed limits set by this act.

  2. That such seizure will prevent the apprehended breaking of the rules, which are laid down by this act and excess production and dissemination of Environmental Pollutants than the prescribed limits set by this act.

  3. That the seized article can act as proof of the Offence of non-compliance with the rules of this act by that Industry.

  • There are particular conditions under which the Officials of such Industry will be considered at fault and they are as follows:

  1. Any Official of such Industry, if fails to provide co-operation on demand of the Official or Authority appointed under this act by the Central Government, without any valid reason.

  2. Any Official, if voluntarily causes adjournments without any valid reason or impediments in the performance of any tasks assigned to the Officials or Authorities appointed under this act by the Central Government.

  • Either of the following provisions will apply, along with this act upon such seizure:

  1. The particular Area Code of Jammu and Kashmir was established particularly to deal with such situations.

  2. Any particular State law of any State established particularly to deal with such a situation will apply.

  3. The warrant issued in such a case to conduct any investigation or seizure is similar to the warrant issued according to Section 94 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Section 11: Authority to take Sample:

  • The Official/ Authority appointed under this act has been given power by this Section to take a sample of the following, in the manner laid down in this act, to check whether their quality is up to the standards provided under this act.

  1. Air

  2. Water

  3. Soil

  4. Maintenance of the hazardous Substance in this Industries.

  • To conclude the analysis admissible in the court proceeding then such a result has to be taken out in the manner given in clauses (4) and (3).

  • Subsection (3) of this act states that there is a particular procedure which has to be followed to take the sample and it is as follows:

  1. A notice has to be provided to the Official/ any person on behalf of that Official) responsible for that locality or industry from where the sample is being taken, right away and in a prescribed manner elucidating the intention of taking such a sample.

  2. Furthermore, the sample has to be taken in the attendance of the Official or his agent.

  3. The vessel in which such sample is taken has to be closed and shall be made secure against any access, leakage or passage. Moreover, The Official taking the sample as well as the Official responsible for the locality from where the sample is being taken, have to sign the sealed vessel.

  4. Then such a vessel has be to sent to the Environmental Laboratory established under Section 12 of this act at the earliest.

  • After serving the notice according to clause (Subsection 3, certain possibilities might take place and this provision deals with the same as follows:

  1. If after receiving the notice, the Official responsible for that industry's working or any agent of that Official remains absent delay or cause hindrance in the working of the authority or officials appointed by the Central Government then the sample shall be taken even in the absence of such Industries’ official/ agent and the sealed vessel containing the sample shall get signed by the Official/ authority who will be collecting it.

  2. If after the collection of the sample and sealing it, the Official responsible for that Industry’s work or any agent of that Official denies signing the sealed vessel to delay or Hindrances the working of the authority or officials appointed by the Central Government, then the authority or officials appointed by the Central Government is required to continue the process as prescribed in Subsection 3 of this Section and also report such refusal to sign by the Industries’ official or agent, in writing, to the Government analyst, appointed under Section 13.

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