MoEF proposes amendments in Environment Protection Act, to decriminalize provisions

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has today proposed the decriminalisation of the existing provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The EPA is the overarching environment Act, superseding other Acts like the Water and Air Act.

Incidentally, the Ministry has proposed amendments in these Acts as well, so as to decriminalise them. The Ministry has today issued a pre-draft public notice, asking for feedback from experts, stake holders, industry associations and government agencies.

The ministry has proposed the removal of imprisonment as a penalty for the “less severe’’ contraventions. Incidentally, the EPA provisions
will be in force for penal provisions of the single use plastic ban which has come into force from today.

Only once this feedback, due by 27th July, is examined, will the Ministry then come out with a draft notification and another round of
objections and suggestions from the public.

“In order to decriminalize the existing provisions of the EPA, 1986, this Ministry is examining the proposals to make amendments in the
EPA, 1986 based on inputs received from various stakeholders,’’says the Ministry’s public notice.

The Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 (EPA) was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution and came into force on 19h November of 1986. The EPA, 1986 establishes “the framework for studying, planning, and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to situations threatening the environment.’’

In case of any non-compliance or contravention of the provisions of the EPA, or of the rules under this Act, the violator can be punished with imprisonment up to five years or with a fine up to Rs 1,00,000, or with both.

In case of continuation of such violation, an additional fine of up to Rs 5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such contravention can be levied, under the Act. Further, if the violation continues beyond a period of one year after the date of conviction, the offender can be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.

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“In this regard, concerns were raised with regard to the present penal provisions and suggestions have been received for decriminalization of the existing provisions of the EPA, 1986 in order to weed out fear of imprisonment for simple violations,’’ says the notice.

Failure or contravention or non-compliance of the provisions of EPA such as submitting reports, furnishing information etc. will now be dealt through imposing a monetary penalty. However, in case of serious violations which lead to grievous injury or loss of life, they shall
be covered under the provision of Indian Penal Code.

Instead of imprisonment, the amendments propose the creation of an “Environmental Protection Fund’’ in which the amount of penalty
imposed will be remitted.

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