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Report No. 186

Chapter V

Environmental Courts or Appellate Environment Bodies in India as at Present

General jurisdiction of various civil, criminal and constitutional Courts:

We have referred, in detail in Chapter III, to the case law showing the wide range of powers exercised by the High Courts and the Supreme Court on a variety of environmental issues under Article 226 and Article 32 respectively. Apart from these superior Courts, the subordinate civil courts exercise powers in regard to public and private nuisances. (See section 9 and also section 91 of the Code of Civil Procedure Code, 1908). Criminal Courts exercise powers under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with offences relating to environment.

Chapter XIV of the IPC refer to offences under sections 269, 270 (neglecting or doing malignant acts likely to spread infectious diseases dangerous to life, disobedience of quarantine rules (sec. 271), fouling water of public spring or reservoir (sec. 277), making atmosphere noxious to health (sec. 278), negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substances, fire or combustible matter, explosive substances, machinery, and pulling down or repairing buildings; animals (sec. 291), endangering life or personal safety of others (sections 336 to 338), mischief (sec. 425), mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongly diverting water (sec. 430), mischief by injury to public road, bridges, river or channel (sec. 431), mischief by causing inundation or obstruction to public drainage, attended with damage (sec. 432), and culpable homicide (sec. 299 to 304A).

Chapter X of the Code of Criminal 91Procedure, 1973 also contains provisions for enforcement of various provisions of the substantive law (for e.g. section 133 CrPC).

In addition, new offences are created by sections 41 to 50 (Chapter VII) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; sections 37 to 46 (Chapter VI) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, sections 14 to 18 of the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, section 3A, 3B of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; section 51 to 58 (Chapter VI) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; section 15 to 17 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

All these offences today go for trial before the ordinary criminal courts. The appropriate criminal court will deal with the matter and is identified on the basis of the territorial jurisdiction and depending upon its power to award sentence of imprisonment to any person for particular number of years. The appeals on the criminal side are governed by the laws relating to criminal procedure.

Obviously, whether the matter is one of civil nature or criminal nature, once it is taken cognizance by any Court subordinate to the High Court, it will be dealt with by the said civil or criminal court along with the other cases before it and environmental cases are not normally given any priority in the matter of disposal. Of course, if the issue comes before the High Court or the Supreme Court under writ jurisdiction whether the matter is one brought by the affected party or parties or in a Public Interest litigation, these Courts take up these matters faster but the cases are not taken up day by day as may be done by an Environmental Court dealing exclusively with such cases.

What we mean to say is that none of the above Courts are courts having exclusive jurisdiction as regards environmental issues and the result is that there is delay in their disposal as compared to the time within which any special Environmental Court dealing only with issues relating to environment could have taken. It cannot be disputed that environmental matters have to be taken up early, monitored from time to time and be finally disposed of by a procedure quicker than that obtaining now.

Further, the Courts today lack independent expert advice on environmental matters by a statutory panel attached to the Court and depend mostly on the expert evidence that may be adduced by the parties. We have already pointed in the previous chapters, the need for experts in environment to be associated with the Courts dealing with these cases.

Proposal to Constitute Environment Courts Back

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