An Overview of Environmental Litigation in India
Preservation of the Environment is an integral part of the legislative and administrative functioning of any government. Environmental law and environmental litigation encompass a wide range of legislation, enactments, and rules primarily concerned with regulating human activities in the natural environment and its multiple linked ecosystems (land, water, air). After the Stockholm Conference of 1972, the Government of India established the National Council for Environmental Policy & Planning within the Department of Science and Technology. It aimed to establish a regulatory body to look after environment-related issues. This Council later evolved into the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
Several environmental protection legislations exist in the country today that aim to ensure that individuals, governments, and organisations do not destroy the environment or its ecosystems. All industrial establishments have to abide by these directions given in the form of Acts and Rules, as neglecting the environment-related aspects of the business will lead to the prosecution of such entities and the imposition of heavy penalties. The following are the essential legislation that governs the conduct of industrial establishment towards the environment-related issues and the preservation of natural resources.
- The Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules 1991 and Amendment, 1992
- The National Environmental Tribunal Act, 1995, Amendment, 2010
- The National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997
- The Environment (Siting for Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999
- The Noise Pollution (Amendment) Rules, 2010
- The Air (P&CP) Act, 1981
- Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006 (FRA)
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- The Water (P&CP) Act, 1974
- Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2018
- The Energy Conservation Act, 2001
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021
How environment-related litigation works in India
Environmental litigation requires specialised knowledge of applicable rules and compliances. Such litigation covers cases in environment-related disputes that can be in the form of civil and criminal proceedings against a business entity. In such cases, entities must clearly understand how environmental litigation works and the measures that can be inculcated in business to mitigate the chances of litigation. The services provided by environment experts include advising and strategizing the business operation and analysing the existing and potential ecological risks from the business to the environment and the humans (covered by the ESG Reporting), and suggesting practical solutions to the business.
Role of Tribunals in Environmental Litigation
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 for expeditious and effective disposal of environment-related cases relating to protecting and conserving forests, ecological balance, water bodies and other natural resources. After the NGT Act came into force meant an automatic repeal of the National Environment Tribunal Act of 1995 and the National Environment Appellate Authority Act of 1997. This also led to the discontinuation of the NEAA or National Environment Appellate Authority, which was a quasi-judicial body.
NGT is responsible for enforcing any legal right relating to the environment and giving compensation for damages. The presence of expert (technical members) and judicial members is a key feature of tribunals that distinguishes them from traditional courts.
The NGT has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving any substantial question relating to the environment. Additionally, any aggrieved person can also challenge an order/direction of any of the Appellate Authorities under the legislations mentioned above before the National Green Tribunal.
Legal assistance required by Industrial Establishments
The environment-related activities as a part of CSR initiatives are becoming more and more popular among existing corporations. Many new businesses are also becoming aware of the benefits of such environment-related corporate responsibilities and inducing it in their mandated compliances. Environmental Aspects such as pollution control and adapting energy-efficient technologies and practices in the day-to-day working of businesses are being incorporated so that their businesses become more compliant with the ESG framework, which will soon become mandatory. However, some environment-related situations, as given below, can need assistance from environmental experts. It can be in the form of following legal services and assistance.
- Guidance for due diligence for business transactions.
- Assisting with environmental compliance with state and central regulations.
- Drafting contractual agreements.
- Assisting in permit applications, reviews, modifications, challenges, and transfers.
- Pre-Emptive Controls & Risk Mitigation.
- Representing clients against government agencies.
Areas in which corporations face Environmental Litigation
Hundreds of firms are prosecuted each year for violating environmental laws of the country and have to pay hundreds of millions of rupees in penalties or environmental compensation. Most of the litigation today in the country is related to negligent waste management practices, exploitation of resources and practices that have led to the degradation of the environment and its agents, i.e. air, water, and land. Many cases are filed as PIL when the general populace is unaware of the implication of industrial activity on their surrounding environment. The following are some of the environmental subjects that are or will soon be open to environmental litigations.
- Managing Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (H2, CH4 )and Climate Change
- Disturbing the Ecological balance of an Ecologically sensitive Zone
- Non-compliance to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and guidelines in pre and post-production stages
- Unregulated Waste Management Practices
- Running the business without proper licence and authorisation.
How can Enterclimate assist you?
A one-stop solution for all legalities
We provide comprehensive assistance in cases involving environmental litigation. Apart from that, we also ensure that our client’s business remains compliant with every licencing and authorisation requirement through our expert team of lawyers, CAs and CS.
Our team comprises environmental experts and lawyers who can handle legal disputes under Environmental Litigation. Our experts provide legal assistance and help you with the lawful conduct of your business.
We provide dedicated executives to our clients to ensure round-the-clock legal consultation. We believe in providing comprehensive assistance in case your business faces a legal hassle with the government authorities.