Hefty fine, jail mooted for violating environmental laws

Indigenous communities of Jharkhand have long defended their native forests from exploitation.
India has increased its forest area significantly over the past decade: Economic Survey. Photo: IANS

New Delhi:  The Government of India has mooted a proposal to empower officials in the rank of Joint Secretary at the Central level and Secretary at the state level to fix fines to be imposed on violators of laws related to environmental protection.

According to the draft legislation prepared in this regard, those who have any objection to the fine imposed on them could file an appeal before the National Green Tribunal within 60 days of receiving the order.

Fine and jail

At the same time, failure to pay the fine could invite a prison sentence of up to three years or an additional fine of up to Rs 10 crore or both, says the draft law. The draft also suggests the setting up of a special fund for protecting the environment with the money collected as fines.

Related amendments

Meanwhile, the Central Government has decided to change the rules related to waste disposal and pollution control also along similar lines, for which the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 would be amended.

The draft says that instead of the criminal charges being slapped on violators under the existing laws, fines may be charged after the amendment.

Insurance cover

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is also considering a proposal to avoid prosecution in cases where the provisions of the Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991 are not followed. The Ministry would soon invite the opinion of stakeholders on the proposal and amend the law.

The Act seeks to provide insurance cover to victims of accidents caused while dealing with harmful substances. In the case of a mishap, the owners of the company where the incident took place have to pay an amount as interim relief to the victims. The law says that the company should ensure insurance cover in advance considering the chances of such accidents.

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