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Source: This post is created based on the article “Just Fine – On amending environmental laws” published in The Hindu on 8th July 2022.
Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Indian Environment – Environment Degradation and Protection
News: Union Environment Ministry has proposed an amendment to the sections of key environmental legislation.
What is the current legal framework, and what is the proposal to change?
India’s present environment regulatory framework ensures that natural resources are not exploited unnecessarily and polluters are punished.
The present framework punish violators by imprisonment up to five years or with a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both. There is also a provision for the jail term to extend to up to 7 years in case of repeated violations. It deters or discourages the violators from harming the environment.
However, the proposed amendments are looking for simple monetary fines instead of imprisonment for simple violations. However, it retains imprisonment as punishment for the grave injury to the environment.
(Read more in the article link given above)
Could fines act as a deterrent against pending cases?
A monetary fine is not a unique proposal given in India. Research on environmental crime in the United States and Europe suggests that fining is the most common mode of punishment.
Indian courts took between 9-33 years to clear a backlog of cases for environmental violations. In 2018, close to 45,000 cases were pending for trial and in that very year, 35000 more cases were added.
Fines could theoretically help with faster redress. However, large environmental fines will continue to be contested in courts, adding to the prevailing practice of tardy justice.
The threat of imprisonment might have acted as a deterrent in India, where the effectiveness of environmental regulation is under par.