Environmental Regulatory Authorities in India: An Analysis

AuthorAjay Kumar Singh,Sanjay Sharma
Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Indian Journal of Public
64(4) 627–644
© 2018 IIPA
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0019556118788482
Regulatory Authorities
in India: An Analysis
Sanjay Sharma1
Ajay Kumar Singh2
Environmental regulatory authorities in India are post-constitutional develop-
ment. It allowed for a nationally regulated and state-coordinated governance
of environment. Federally speaking, while ‘right to decide’ belongs to the centre,
states have authority to execute and act upon central decisions in a manner
provided under such decisions. The present article analyses the major environ-
mental enactments and structural and functional dimensions of different
regulatory authorities both at the national and state levels. Methodologically,
primary reliance has been made on acts and orders. The article argues that
environmental governance at once is a matter of standardisation of rules and
norms of conduct, regulation of policies and activities having considerable bear-
ings on environmental protection and coordinating activities of state and non-
state actors. The article concludes that environmental governance is extremely
loaded in favour of the centre.
Environmental regulatory authorities, environmental laws, Indian federalism,
environmental governance
Over the years, politico-administrative state of India has given way to techno-
bureaucratic state by establishing subject-specific regulatory bodies with legisla-
tive sanction to issue binding orders and authority to adjudicate disputes. These
1 Assistant Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Army Cadet College, Indian Military
Academy, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.
2 Professor and Head, UGC-Centre for Federal Studies, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Ajay Kumar Singh, UGC-Centre for Federal Studies, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi 110062, India.
E-mail: drkumarajaysingh@gmail.com
628 Indian Journal of Public Administration 64(4)
are mostly created under subordinate legislations. Many of them are nationally
and provincially created. Power relationships among them are hierarchically
arranged. Regulatory bodies generally dislocate the conventional division of
powers between the centre and the states. They in final analysis promote centrali-
sation. Most of the developmental and scientific subjects of the Seventh Schedule
of the Indian Constitution are governed by one or more than one regulatory bodies.
Environment is one of them. It is a subject of critical federal concerns and assumed
as a critical salience with the passing of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
How to seek balance between the need for environmental protection and industrial
development has posed challenges of coordinated actions between the state and
the society. In this article, an attempt has been made to analyse and understand the
key concern of federal governance of important environmental issues. Primary
focus is placed on the content analysis of some major legislative Acts and working
of regulatory institutions in the field of environment. In this context, one may briefly
refer to the major concerns of the environmental governance, such as (a) standardis-
ing the norms of use and exploitation of natural resources, (b) environmental
regulation of industrial production, (c) ensuring coordinated action among the
stakeholders and (d) jurisdictional coherence and division of legislative compe-
tence and executive autonomy, in a manner as to ensure independence and inter-
dependence of governments.
Constitutional Provisions on Environment
Originally the word ‘environment’ did not find any place in Indian Constitution.
Till the 42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976, the subject matter of environ-
ment was supposedly covered under the entry ‘forest’ and ‘wild life protection’ in
the State List in the Seventh Schedule. In other words, environmental protection
and governance was a matter of states’ competence. Centre could arguably inter-
vene under its residuary authority and treaty making powers. Another instrument
of national regulation of environment was the text of Article 249 of the constitu-
tion, which reads as follows:
Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this chapter, if the Council of
States has declared by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members
present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in national interest that Parliament
should make laws with respect to any matter enumerated in the State List specied in
the resolution, it shall be lawful for Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part
of the territory of India with respect to that matter while the resolution remains in force.
However, the context of ‘national interest’ is too ambiguous and political to
provide any federally amicable and acceptable view on environmental manage-
ment. As a matter of fact, these constitutional instruments were considered as
insufficient legislative instruments to meet the challenges of environment on
national scale. It is probably the reason that in the later years, the Report of the
National Commission on Agricultural (NCA), 1976, had recommended for the

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