The Air Act provides for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. This Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in the exercise of its powers conferred under Article 253 of the Constitution. It reflects the outcome of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment, 1972, in which India played a significant part. The Act is implemented with the help of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Rules, 1981.
The object of the Act is stated in the Long Title of the Air Act, An Act to provide for the prevention and control of air pollution for the establishment with a view to carrying out the aforesaid purposes, of Boards for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters connected there with.
Whereas decisions were taken at the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972 in which India participated, to take appropriate steps for the preservation of the natural resources of the earth which amount other things include the preservation of quality of air and control of air pollution and whereas it is considered necessary to implement the decisions aforesaid in so far as they relate to the preservation of the quality of air and control of air pollution.
Sections 2 of the Air Act deals with the definitions, the important ones are as follows:
Air Pollutant: Section 2(a) Air Pollutant means any solid, liquid and gaseous substance including noise present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment.
Air Pollution: Section 2(b) Air Pollution means the presence in the atmosphere of any air pollutant.
Emission: Section 2(j) Emission means any solid or liquid or gaseous substance coming out of any chimney, duct or flue or any other outlet.
Industrial Plant: Section 2 (k) Any plant used for any industrial or trade purposes and emitting any air pollutant into the atmosphere.
Occupier: Section 2(m) Occupier in relation to any factory or premises means the person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises and includes in relation to any substance the person in possession of the substance.
The Act provides that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which was constituted under Section 3, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, shall also exercise the powers and functions of the CPCB for the prevention and control of air pollution under this Act. Thus, the powers have been delegated to the already existing Board and no new board has been constituted for the precise purpose of prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. The Central Board shall also exercise the powers and perform the functions of the State Boards in Union Territories; or it may delegate such powers and functions to any person or body of persons as the Central Government may specify.
Where State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) have been constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, such State Boards shall also be deemed to be State Boards for the prevention and control of air pollution, and shall also exercise all powers and functions of State Boards for prevention and control of air pollution under this Act.
In this case1) the Karnataka High Court ordered that the State Board, under Section 18, to abide by the order issued by the government which relates to Section 17, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The State Government cannot give directions to the State Board which has not been mentioned under Section 17 of the Act and the Board is also not bound to carry out such orders. In this case, the State Government precluded the rice-mills from the jurisdiction of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. A rice-mill was causing air pollution from husk and dust production by the operation of the mill. Residents of the nearby area filed a writ against the State and the State Board, as the air pollution produced by the rice-mill violated the right to life provided under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court ordered for the closure of the mill and declared that the State Government has no power to preclude any industry which causes air pollution from the operation of the Act.
Section 10: The Board shall meet at least once in every three months and shall observe such rules of procedure in its meetings as provided under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1982. The Chairman may also convene a meeting at any time he thinks fit for an urgent work to be transacted. Copies of the minutes of the meeting shall always be forwarded to the Central Board and to the State Government.
Section 18(b): In the performance of its duties under the Air Act, every State Board shall be bound by such directions in writing as the Central Board or the State Government may give to it, provided that where a direction given by the State Government is inconsistent with the direction given by the Central Board, the mater shall be referred to the Central Government for its decision.
Section 20: With a view to ensuring that the standards for emission of air pollutants from automobiles laid down by the State Board under clause (g) of sub-section (1) of section 17 are complied with, the State Government shall, in consultation with the State Board, give such instructions as may be deemed necessary to the concerned authority in charge of registration of motor vehicles under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (4 of 1939), and such authority shall, notwithstanding anything contained in that Act or the rules made thereunder be bound to comply with such instructions.
(a) destroys, pulls down, removes, injures or defaces any pillar, post or stake fixed in the ground or any notice or other matter put up, inscribed or placed, by or under the authority of the Board, or
(b) obstructs any person acting under the orders or directions of the Board from exercising his powers and performing his functions under this Act, or
(c) damages any works or property belonging to the Board, or
(d) fails to furnish to the Board or any officer or other employee of the Board any information required by the Board or such officer or other employee for the purpose of this Act, or
(e) fails to intimate the occurrence of the emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere in excess of the standards laid down by the State Board or the apprehension of such occurrence, to the State Board and other prescribed authorities or agencies as required under sub-section (1) of section 23, or
(f) in giving any information which he is required to give under this Act, makes a statement which is false in any material particular, or
(g) for the purpose of obtaining any consent under section 21, makes a statement which is false in any material particular,
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.
Whoever contravenes any of the provisions of this Act or any order or direction issued thereunder, for which no penalty has been elsewhere provided in this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both, and in the case of continuing contravention, with an additional fine which may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which such contravention continues after conviction for the first such contravention.
Only on a complaint made by The Board or any person authorized in this behalf or; Any person who has given notice, of not less than six days, of the alleged offences and of his intention to make a complaint to the Board or any officer authorize in this behalf.
No Court inferior to that of metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class can try an offence under this Act.
Section 31: Any person aggrieved by the order of the State Board has the right to appeal within thirty days to such Appellate authority a constituted by the State Government.
In M.C. Mehta v Union of India2), the CPCB in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order, after giving notice to the industries concerned, directed them to close down w.e.f. 30 June 1997. Further it decided that these brick kiln industries could open after shifting to new allotted site, and after adopting newer and cleaner technology. The Delhi Administration was also directed to render necessary help and facilities to brick kilns wanting to shift/relocate themselves. The court also laid down the rights and benefits to be given to the workmen of the closing brick kilns.
In this case3) fixing liability on the officials of a company causing air pollution the Madhya Pradesh High court held that The President and other higher officers of the company cannot take plea that they are only concerned with the profit and loss of the company and they are not supposed to pay attention towards the observation of the law with regard to prevent or control of the pollution which is essential part of the nature of the industry concerned. Therefore, in view of this Court in present case there are specific avernments and material on record to frame the opinion by the Magistrate that prima facie sufficient ground exists for issuance of process to prosecute the applicants on the basis of the complaint for commission of offence under section 37 and 39 and section 40 of the Act.
In this case4) the Karnataka High court held that if consent has been granted by the Board with specific conditions and they are not abided by, the consent can be taken back by the Board. In this case, the industry failed to carry out the conditions specified in the consent order. Therefore, the court decided that action could be taken against the erring industry under Section 37 of the Act and it could be punished accordingly. But before passing any prohibitory order, the Board must also take into consideration the problems which may arise from the closure of an industry as the denial of livelihood to the workers, or grave injury to the owner of the industry. The Board, before issuing the order for closure and order for withdrawal of consent, should follow the procedure prescribed for the same.
To empower the central and state pollution boards to meet grave emergencies, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 1987, was enacted. The boards were authorized to take immediate measures to tackle such emergencies and recover the expenses incurred from the offenders. The power to cancel consent for non-fulfillment of the conditions prescribed has also been emphasized in the Air Act Amendment.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules formulated in 1982, defined the procedures for conducting meetings of the boards, the powers of the presiding officers, decision-making, the quorum; manner in which the records of the meeting were to be set etc. They also prescribed the manner and the purpose of seeking assistance from specialists and the fee to be paid to them. Complementing the above Acts is the Atomic Energy Act of 1982, which was introduced to deal with radioactive waste. In 1988, the Motor Vehicles Act was enacted to regulate vehicular traffic, besides ensuring proper packaging, labeling and transportation of the hazardous wastes. Various aspects of vehicular pollution have also been notified under the EPA of 1986. Mass emission standards were notified in 1990, which were made more stringent in 1996. In 2000 these standards were revised yet again and for the first time separate obligations for vehicle owners, manufacturers and enforcing agencies were stipulated. In addition, fairly stringent Euro I and II emission norms were notified by the Supreme Court on April 29, 1999 for the city of Delhi. The notification made it mandatory for car manufacturers to conform to the Euro I and Euro II norms by May 1999 and April 2000, respectively, for new non-commercial vehicle sold in Delhi.