Environmental Protection and Regulations in India: Role of the Central Pollution Control Board

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Indian Journal of Public
64(4) 645–663
© 2018 IIPA
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0019556118785427
Environmental Protection
and Regulations in India:
Role of the Central
Pollution Control Board
Prakash Chand1
Since independence, Indian policymakers have attempted to address environ-
mental problems by passing a number of rules and regulations as per the vision
of the constitution and in response to the requirement of time. However, due to
the prevalent poverty and the developmental compulsions of the nation, environ-
ment and its protection was not a priority of the government till the end of the
1960s. But, the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment brought a
marked shift in India’s approach to environmental issues. The conference proved
to be a turning point in India’s perception on environment and facilitated the cre-
ation of the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Co-ordination
(NCEPC) in 1972. The NCEPC triggered a rise in environmental legislation,
beginning with the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974,
which provided for the creation of Pollution Control Boards for the control
of water pollution at national and state levels and empowered them to enforce
the law. The boards were later empowered to deal with air pollution by Air
(Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 and acted as regulatory mech-
anisms to environmental protection. This article primarily deals with the role of
the Central Pollution Control Board as a regulatory authority to environmental
protection and regulations in India.
Environmental protection, environmental regulation, Central Pollution Control
1 Faculty, Department of Political Science, Dyal Singh Evening College, University of Delhi, Delhi,
Corresponding author:
Prakash Chand, Faculty, Department of Political Science, Dyal Singh Evening College, University of
Delhi, Delhi 110003, India.
E-mail: pcka120872@yahoo.com
646 Indian Journal of Public Administration 64(4)
Constitutional Provisions for Environmental Protection
India is one of the very few countries of the world which has incorporated in
its constitution a commitment to environmental protection and improvement
(Government of India [GoI], 2017, p. 7).1 The 42nd Amendment Act inserted two
Articles, that is, 48A and 51A, in the Constitution of India in 1976. Article 48A of
the constitution directs that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the
environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country. Similarly, clause (g)
of Article 51A imposes a duty on every citizen of India, to protect and improve
the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have
compassion for living creatures. The intention of Articles 48A and 51A(g) seems
to be that the ‘State’ as well as the ‘citizens’ both have constitutional obligation to
protect and improve the environment.
There is no direct provision for the protection of environment in the funda-
mental rights, but the Indian judiciary has read ‘right to wholesome environment’
as a part of the ‘right to life’ guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Article 21 enunciates that ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal
liberty except according to procedure established by law’. The slow poisoning,
caused by environmental pollution, amounts to violation of Article 21 of the
Constitution. Furthermore, the interpretation given by the Supreme Court in the
Maneka Gandhi (1978) case has added a new dimension to the concept of per-
sonal liberty of an individual. Environmental pollution which spoils the atmos-
phere and thereby affects the life and health of the person has been regarded as
amounting to violation of Article 21 of the constitution. The judicial grammar
of interpretation has further broadened the scope and ambit of Article 21 and
now ‘right to life’ includes the ‘right to clean air and water’ (AIR 1978 SC 597).
In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, the apex court invariably spelt out the citi-
zens’ ‘right to clean environment’, which was in turn derived from the protection
of life and liberty enumerated in Article 21 (Supreme Court Cases [SSC], 1996,
p. 752). Justice Singh in the Ganga pollution case declared in unequivocal terms
that closure of industries may bring unemployment and loss of revenue to the
states, but ‘life, health and ecology have greater importance for the people’
(All India Reporter [AIR], 1987). In fact, the right to life guaranteed in Article
21 of the Constitution embraces the protection and preservation of nature’s gifts
without which life cannot be enjoyed. Thus, Article 21 is rightly considered as a
mandate for life-saving environment.
Environmental Protection Acts and Policies
The post-Independence period, until 1970, did not see much legislative activity in
the field of environmental awareness and protection. Two early post-Independence
laws touched on water pollution. The Factories Act of 1948 required all factories
to make effective arrangements for waste disposal and empowered state govern-
ments to frame rules for implementing this directive. Under the River Boards Act
of 1956, river boards were empowered to prevent water pollution of inter-state

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