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THE ENVIRONMENT (PROTECTION) ACT, 1986

1
Statement of Objects and Reasons
(1) Concern over the state of environment has grown, the world over since the sixties.
The decline in environmental quality has been evidenced by increasing pollution, loss of
vegetal cover and biological diversity, excessive concentrations of harmful chemicals in
the ambient atmosphere and in food chains, growing risks of environmental accidents and
threats to life support systems. The world community’s resolve to protect and enhance the
environmental quality found expression in the decisions taken at the United Nations
Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June, 1972. Government of
India participated in the Conference and strongly voiced the environmental concerns.
While several measures have been taken for environmental protection both before and
after the Conference, the need for a general legislation further to implement the decisions
of the Conference has become increasingly evident.
(2) Although there are existing laws dealing directly or indirectly with several
environmental matters, it is necessary to have a general legislation for environmental
protection. Existing laws generally focus on specific types of pollution or on specific
categories of hazardous substances. Some major areas of environmental hazards are not
covered. There also exist uncovered gaps in areas of major environmental hazards. There
are inadequate linkages in handling matters of industrial and environmental safety.
Control mechanisms to guard against slow, insidious build up of hazardous substances,
especially new chemicals, in the environment are weak. Because of a multiplicity of
regulatory agencies, there is need for an authority which can assume the lead role for
studying, planning and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and
to give direction to, and co-ordinate a system of speedy and adequate response to,
emergency situations threatening the environment.
(3) In view of what has been stated above, there is urgent need for the enactment of a
general legislation on environmental protection which inter alia, should enable co-
ordination of activities of the various regulatory agencies, creation of an authority or
authorities with adequate powers for environmental protection, regulation of discharge of
environmental pollutants and handling or hazardous substances, speedy response in the
event of accidents threatening environment and deterrent punishment to those who
endanger human environment, safety and health.
(4) The Bill seeks to achieve the above objects.
(Act No. 29 of 1986)
[23rd May, 1986]
An Act to provide for the protection and improvement of environment and for matters
connected therewith.
WHEREAS decisions were taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human
Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972, in which India participated, to take
appropriate steps for the protection and improvement of human environment;

AND WHEREAS it is considered necessary further to implement the decisions aforesaid in


so far as they relate to the protection and improvement of environment and the prevention
of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property;
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Thirty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as
follows:–
Chapter I
PRELIMINARY
1. Short title, extent and commencement.–(1) This Act may be called the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
(2) It extends to the whole of India.
(3) It shall come into force on such date 1 as the Central Government may, by
notification in the Official Gazette, appoint and different dates may be appointed for
different provisions of this Act and for different areas.
2. Definitions.–In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, –
(a) “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;
COMMENTS
Hygienic environment.– The wo rd ‘env iron ment’ is of broad sp ectrum which brings with in its
ambit “hyg ienic atmo sphere and ecological balance”. Hygienic environment is an integral facet of
right to healthy life and it would be impossible to liv e with hu man dignity withou t a hu man and
h ealth y environ men t. It is, th erefo re, no t on ly the duty of the State but also the duty of every
citizen to maintain hygien ic environment. Th e State, in particular has duty in th at behalf and to
shed its ex travag ant unb rid led so vereign power and to fo rg e in its po licy to main tain ecolog ical
balance and hygienic environment. En jo yment of lif e and its attain ment in cluding th eir right to lif e
with human dign ity encomp asses with in its ambit, th e protection and preservation of environment,
ecological balance free fro m po llution of air and water, sanitation without which life can not be
enjoyed.
Virend er Gaur v. Sta te o f Haryana , 1994 (5 ) Scale 21 1: (1995 ) 2 SCC. 5 77.

(b) “environmental pollutant”, means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in
such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment;
(c) “environmental pollution” means the presence in the environment of any
environmental pollutant;
(d) “handling”, in relation to any substance, means the manufacture, processing,
treatment, package, storage, transportation, use, collection, destruction,
conversion, offering for sale, transfer or the like of such substance;
COMMENTS
Citizen has no inh eren t righ t to man uf actu re fire wo rks wh ich creates sound b eyond p ermi ssib le limits.
Burraba zar Fire Wo rks Dea lers Asso cn . v . Commissioner of Po lice, Calcu tta, AIR 1998 Cal 121 .

(e) “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;
COMMENTS
Haza rdous Substa nce.– It means an y substance or preparation which, by reason of its chemical or
ph ysico -ch emical p roperties or h and lin g, is liab le to cause harm to hu man beings and other living
creatures, plants, micro-organisms etc. Physico-che mical properties of electricity are dif initely
l i able to cau se h a rm t o hu man being s and other liv ing c re atures , p l ant s , mic ro -o rg an is m e t c . Thu s it
h as to , b e regard ed as 'h az a rdou s sub st an c e' with in the me a n ing giv en in Section 2 (e ) of th e A c t and
once su ch substance is hazardous irresp ective of quantity, it is not necessary to notif y electricity as
required in S e ction 2 (d ) of the Public Liability Insurance Act.
M.P. S tate Electricity Board, Jaba lpu r v . Co llector, Mand la , AIR 200 3 MP 156 .

(f) “occupier”, in relation to any factory or premises, means a person who has control
over the affairs of the factory or the premises and includes, in relation to any
substance, the person in possession of the substance;
(g) “prescribed”, means prescribed by rules made under this Act.
Chapter II
GENERAL POWERS OF THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
3. Power of Central Government to take measures to protect and improve
environment.–(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government shall have
the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of
protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and
abating environmental pollution.
COMMENTS
All Precautio ns to ta ke:– Court has to see as to wh ether authorities have law wh ile dealing with
environment and po llution. Authorities mu st co nform to take all necessary precautions un der th e
p recau tionary princip le as enumin ated by the Supreme Court of India.
T h . M ajra S ingh v . India n Oil C orp ., AIR 1999 J & K 81 . AP Pollu tion Contro l Board v . Pro f. M.V.
Nayu du , AIR 1999 SC 8 12 .
Use of Poly thene bags ca using Environmental Pollutio n:– The un regulated dispo sal of th e u sed
po lythene bags th ro wn in to the d rain s of city h as b lo cked the no rmal f low of water causing water
logg ing and environmental po llution, it was held th at anything th at affects ‘Public Health’,
‘h yg iene’ and tranqu illity h as to be abho rred .
Wing Co mmander Utp al Barbara v. State of Assa m & others, AIR 1999 Gauh ati 78 .
Disposal of petition ag ainst environmental po llu tion merely on con sent of pollu tio n con tro l bo ard
no t p rop er being matter of p ublic in terest at large.
Sug arcan e G. & S S u gars Sha re Hold ers Asso cn . v . T N Po llu tion Control Board, AIR 1998 SC
261 4.
Un abated po llution du e to disch arge of objection able effluents f ro m d istillery of sug ar indu stry in
river and adjo in ing areas involvin g greater pub lic inte re st mu st b e check ed .
Re: Bh ava ni River – Sa kth i Suga r Ltd., AIR 1998 SC 2 578 .