Environment Protection Act - UPSC Notes on Environmental Act 1986, Features, Summary of EPA

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : November 2nd, 2022

Environment Protection Act 1986 was introduced to protect and improve the environment in India. The EPA 1986 gives the Central Government the authority to create agencies tasked with preventing environmental pollution in all forms and addressing particular environmental issues unique to certain regions of the nation.

The Environment Protection Act finds its roots in the Stockholm Conference of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The act also has the backing of the Indian constitution through the Fundamental duties added by the 42nd Amendment act. Know more about the features and summary of the Environment Protection Act 1986.

Table of Content

Environment Protection Act 1986

The damage to humankind's home, i.e., nature and the consequences of the damage, is not unknown to all. Due to growing concerns from civilisations and industrialisations, the government incorporated the Environment Protection Act 1986. It was a thoughtful step towards environmental safe-keeping and improvement. The Act was legislated in May 1986 because of the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984. The Act was implemented in November 1986.

Environmental Protection Act, 1986 Notes PDF

The primary purpose of the Environmental Protection Act is to ensure sustained development, protection, and improvement of the environment. The Environment Protection Act 1986 provides various actions to incorporate the same and punishment in the case of non-abidance by any person or organisation. Through sustainable development, the Act aims to imbibe the objective and mission of the Environment Protection Act 1986 and achieve the protection of life (under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution).

A series of acts ultimately led to the Environmental Act 1986 after the Stockholm conference. 

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981

Objectives of the Environment Protection Act 1986

The objectives of the Environment Protection Act 1986 are as follows:

  • Formed to carry out the decisions made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972
  • Instils government protection and regulation toward environmental safety
  • Coordinates the actions of various regulating bodies working towards the cause
  • Enforces general environmental laws in case of environmental hazards
  • Provides penalising codes for individuals and institutions for environmental damage
  • Promotes sustainable environmental development

Environment Protection Act Constitutional Provision

The Environmental Protection Act 1986 was introduced under Article 253 of the constitution, which covers legislation for effecting international agreements. 

  • Article 48A of the Constitution was added by the 42nd amendment act which states that the state shall make efforts to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  • Article 51A of the Fundamental duties further states that every citizen shall protect the environment.

The Environmental Act 1986 is applicable to complete India, including Jammu & Kashmir.

Features of Environment Protection Act 1986

Some of the major features of the Environment Protection Act 1986 are as follows. 

  • The Central Government has the power to take any such measures to safeguard and improve the environment in coordination with the State government. 
  • Nationwide programmes can be launched to fight and prevent environmental pollution. 
  • Emission standards and guidelines for discharging environmental pollutants can be laid down. 
  • The Central Government may appoint officers under the Environment Protection Act 1986
  • Procedural Safeguards: No person may handle—or may be made to handle—any hazardous substance other than following the procedure and with the appropriate safeguards.
  • Powers of Entry and Inspection
  • Establishment of Environmental Laboratories
  • Appointment of Government Analyst
  • Penalties for Offences
  • Offences by Companies
  • Offences by Government Departments
  • Cognizance of offences

Difference Between Environment Protection Act and Wildlife Protection Act

The Environment Protection Act 1986 is an “umbrella” act for various environmental legislations and provides a framework for the coordination of various central and state authorities’ activities in order to protect and safeguard the environment. On the other hand, the Wild Life Protection Act 1972 focuses on protecting flora and fauna and their habitats. 

  • The EPA 1986 focuses on environmental pollution and other standards of safeguarding the environment. 
  • The WPA 1972 focuses on protecting the species of animals and plants and preventing the hunting and trade of species. 

Who can file a complaint under the Environment Protection Act 1986?

The Environment Protection Act 1986 allows the following parties to file a complaint in case of infringement of any objectives of the rules of the Act.

  • The central government or any regulatory institution related to the government
  • Any individual who has the intention to or who files the complaint within sixty days against the doing of the alleged offence

Who is not liable under the Environment Protection Act 1986?

Under the purview of section 16 of the Environment Protection Act 1986, if not proven otherwise, and in charge of a company such as a manager, directors, secretary etc. are not liable in the case of -

  • An action is performed without their knowledge.
  • If they have taken due actions to prevent the offence

Punishment under Environment Protection Act 1986

In case of a breach of the Act, Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act 1986 lays out the following punishment for endangering the human environment, safety and health.

  • Imprisonment of up to five years
  • Fine of up to one lakh rupees
  • Both imprisonment and fine
  • In the case of continued offence, the imprisonment time could be extended to seven years.

Though many additional environmental acts have been introduced into Indian legislation, the Environment Protection Act 1986 was created to encompass all aspects and challenges of the environment.

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FAQs on Environment Protection Act 1986

  • The Environment Protection Act was passed in November 1986. The events of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy- considered one of the most severe industrial disasters began with the legislation and enforcement of the Act.

  • The Act's primary objective of the Environment Protection Act 1986 -

    • Sustainable development of the environment
    • Preservation and improvement of the environment
    • Achieve protection of life as covered under Article 21 of the constitution
  • A party should file the complaint under the Environment Protection Act within sixty days of the execution of the alleged offence.

  • The Water (Prevention and Control) Act of 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control) Act of 1986 each established central and state authorities, and the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 was created to provide a framework for the coordination of those authorities.

  • Section 16 of the Environment Protection Act 1986 defines the scope of punishment for companies.

  • The liable party can be fined Rs. One Lakhs or imprisonment up to five years when proven to violate environmental laws under the Environment Protection Act. Continued violations can also extend the imprisonment to seven years.

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