ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION IN INDIA
Perhaps, the first written document in this regard is the Kautilya’s Arthashastra written around 300 B.C. We have no written document available on laws on environment for the Hindu period, or Moghul periods. The first in this direction was Indian Penal Code (IPC) enacted in 1860 by the British Government, in which chapter XIV has devoted on offences affecting public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals. A few more legislations were made in Bengal and Bombay presidency to deal with smoke, gases and other pollutions. For preservation of Forest, Fishery etc., the Cattle Trespass Act-1871, Indian Fisheries Act-1897, and Indian Forest Act-1927 were passed.
The Factories Act-1948 can be considered as the pioneer among the post independent enactments, which contain substantial provisions for the control of environmental pollution. The Factories Act provides the liquid effluents; gases and fumes generated during a manufacturing process should be treated before final disposal to minimize the adverse effects. The Act is applicable to mineral beneficiation plants, and mineral based industries located outside the mine. Few more legislations concerning safety and environment were passed during the period.
The need to protect the environment was emphasized way back in the Fourth. Five Year Plan (1968-73). The Plan document recognizes “the interdependence of living things and their relationship with land, air and water”. Since then the environmental dimension has been added to the entire process of national development. The development plans of all sectors are consistent with the concept of “Sustainable Development”. The objective of all developmental programs is to achieve environmental harmony, economic efficiency, and equity with social justice, conservation of resources and local self-reliance.
But actual legislative measures on environment protection came after Stockholm (Sweden) Declaration in 1972 and 42nd constitutional amendment in 1976.
Constitutional provisions on Environment
(a) Directive Principles
Article 48A (inserted in 1976) – The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Article 49- It shall be obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic and historic interest, declared by or under law by Parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal, or export as the case may be.
The directive principles are guidelines for future law making, but shall not be enforceable by any court as clarified in Article 37.
(b) Fundamental Duties (introduced in 42nd amendment)
Article 51A (g) – To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lake, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
(c) Delegation of legislative Power between Union and States
Under Article 246, subject matter of laws have been grouped under 3 lists, namely- (i) Union list, (ii) State list and (iii) Concurrent list, in the seventh schedule of the constitution.
Regulation of Mines and Minerals (entry no. 54) and Regulation of labour and safety in mines and oilfield (entry no 55) are in the Union list. Accordingly MM (R&D) Act, and Mines Act were made by the Central Government. However, Forests, wildlife and birds which were in the State list, have been brought into concurrent list (entry no 17A and 17B) in 42ndamendment. But water and land still remain in the State list.
New legislations/amendments made during 70′s and 80′s
- The following new legislations or amendment of old legislations have been made to protect the environment and ecology of the country including the mining areas-
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1974 and Rules-1975
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act- 1977 and Rules-1978
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1981 and Rules-1982
- Environment (Protection) Act – 1986 and Rules made thereunder
- Public liability Insurance Act-1991
- Forest (Conservation) Act-1980 and Rules-1981
- Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972 and further amendments
- Amendment of MM (R&D) Act- 1957 in 1986 and Mineral concession Rules-1961 (with amendment) and Mineral conservation and development Rules-1988
- Mines Act-1952 (with amendment), Coal Mines Regulations and Metalliferous Mines Regulation, Mines Rules (with amendment to improve working conditions)