The year 1984, a destructive incident shook the entire nation. A gas leak incident on a December night at UCIL pesticide plant in Bhopal took the lives of nearly four thousand people.

In the wake of this disastrous tragedy, the Government of India authorized the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution. The act got passed in March 1986 and on 19 November 1986 came into force.

Now let’s get into a bit more detail and find out the importance and salient features of environment protection act 1986.

Importance of the Environment Protection Act 1986

The purpose and importance of the environmental protection act 1986 is to bolster and encourage the administration, security, upgrade and enlightened utilization of the earth.

The Act talks about recognizing the following factors:

  • Forestalling, relieving and remediating natural effects are significant in making recommendations and taking actions.
  • Delaying sensible ecological security measures should not be an outcome of dangers of genuine or irreparable damage to the natural honesty, absence of complete assurance.
  • Financially or by any other means, every person is responsible for any impacts on nature because of their activities or inaction.
  • Adaptive, responsive, reasonable, timely and effective, these are some of the qualities which must be present in administrative, management and administrative procedures.

The reason for the enforcement of the Act was to execute the choices of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. They identify with the security and improvement of the human condition and the counteraction of threats to individuals, other living animals, plants and property.

Also Read: Best Books to Study Environment for IAS Prelims Exam

Chapter and Sections

The Act consists of four chapters and 26 sections. Let’s have look at it.

Chapter 1- Preliminary

This chapter consists of two sections which are section 1 and 2. In section 1, the short title, the extension of the act and the commencement dates are mentioned. It is mentioned that the Act is applicable all over India.

In section 2, definitions of various terms mentioned in the Act is explained. Those terms are

  • Environment
  • Environmental pollutant
  • Environmental pollution
  • Handling
  • Hazardous substance
  • Occupier
  • Prescribed

Chapter 2 – General Powers of the Central Government

Under this chapter comes 4 sections.

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Section Provisions
3 The power of the Central Government to take environment security and improvement measures.
4 Appointment, powers and functions of officers.
5 Power or rights to give directions.
6 Environmental pollution regulating rules.

Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act

Despite anything contained in some other law yet subject to the arrangements of this Act, the Central Government may, in the activity of its forces and execution of its capacities under this Act, the issue is written bearings to any individual, official or any authority and such individual, official or authority will undoubtedly consent to such directions.

Clarification — For the evasion of questions, it is thus announced that the ability to give headings under this segment incorporates the ability to direct—

  • The cessation, barring or guideline of any industry, activity or process; or
  • Suspense or guideline of the supply of power or water or some other assistance.

Chapter 3 – Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution

There are 11 sections under this chapter.

Section Provisions
7 No person engaged in industrial or operation activities is allowed to discharge or allow emission of any environmental pollutants in excess of the standard.
8 No one should handle or handle any dangerous substance that doesn’t comply with procedural safeguards.
9 Presenting data to specialists and offices in specific cases.
10 Right or power of entry and exploration.
11 Power to take samples of air, water, soil etc for critical analysis and process to be followed in connection with that.
12 Establishing, recognizing, specifying the functions, procedure and other necessary matters to enable environmental laboratories.
13 Appointment or recognition of Government analysts.
14 Reports signed by Government Analysts.
15 Punishment for repudiation of the provisions of the Act and the guidelines, orders and bearings.
16 Misdeeds of companies.
17 Misdeeds of Government departments.

Chapter 4 – Miscellaneous

There are 9 sections under this chapter.

Section Provisions
18 Protection of any act done or intended to be done in good faith from prosecution or other legal proceedings.
19 Protection against cognizance of offences under this Act except complained by the Central Government or any person who has given 60 days or more notice as prescribed.
20 Furnishing of data, reports or returns.
21 Members, officers and employees of the authority constituted under section 3 to be public servants.
22 Bar of jurisdiction
23 Power to delegate.
24 Consequences of other laws.
25 Power to make ordinances.
26 Rules of environment protection act should be laid before each House of Parliament.

Also Read : How to Prepare an Environment Paper for the UPSC Exam?  A Guide to The Civil Services Examination

Main Aims and Objectives of the Environment Protection Act

  • Implementation of the decisions made in June 1972 at Stockholm at the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment.
  • Government protection authority creation.
  • Forming coordination of activities of different agencies which are operating under the existing law.
  • Enacting regular laws for environmental protection which have the probability of being unfolded in areas of severe environmental threats.
  • Providing punishment to those promoting endangerment to the human environment, safety and health.
  • Sustainable development of the environment.
  • Achieving the purpose of the Act and protection of life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Drawbacks of the Environmental Protection Act 1986

  • India’s forest cover is shrinking at a rapid rate. As forest plays a vital role in the resources of the nation, it gets exploited by villagers in need to fuel corrupt officials, greedy forest contractors etc.
  • A well-meant yet strict forest bill failed to get people’s support. The main two reasons behind the failure of the forest bill were that it prohibited the usage of any of the products of forests by the tribals. The products included leaves, fruits etc. Another reason for the disappointment was that this bill changed forest officers into judges and executioners simultaneously.
  • Regulatory/ enforcing manpower in regulatory agencies is less than required as compared to the ever-growing number of industries.
  • The shortfall of required technical skills/ knowledge as needed for enforcement of regulation.
  • Aversion to change/ attitudinal difficulties.
  • One of the major drawbacks of environmental protection act 1986 is the limitation is financial facilities. Enough resources of money are needed to implement the bare act.

case laws on environmental protection act

Case Laws on Environmental Protection Act

Following are some of the renowned case laws on environmental protection Act 1986:

Sustainable Development

The concept of sustainable development was introduced by the bench of Justices PN Bhagwati and Ranganath Mishra in Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1987 SC 2187. In 1987, RLEK NGO filed a case against quarrying of limestone in the valley.

Water Pollution

The pollution of the Ganga river due to the hazardous industries located on its bank got highlighted through a petition filed by advocate M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court.

Air Pollution

The Apex Court in “M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (Taj Trapezium Case) AIR 1987 gave judgement in 1996 directing different guidelines banning/ restricting coal & cake usage and diverting the industries towards CNG/ Compressed Natural Gas.

Environmental Awareness and Education Case

Cinema halls were ordered to show two free slides on the environment in each of their shows failing which would result in cancellation of their license. This order was given by the Supreme Court in “M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India WP 860/1991”.

Wildlife and Forest Protection Case

A series of directions from 1995 to 2014 was passed by the Supreme Court in “TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs. Union of India and Ors.” concerning the fact that due to destruction of the forest, the livelihood of forest dwellers in the Nilgiri region was getting affected.

Public Trust and Right to Life

In the case of “Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Ors. (1991)”, under Article 21, the Right to Pollution Free Environment was declared as a part of Right of Life .

Basic Rules of the Environment Protection Act 1986

  • The standard for emission or discharge of pollutants from various commercial plants, processes or operation should be as per the specified guidelines mentioned from schedule 1 to schedule 5. The state government can also be more specific about the standards.
  • Soil, water or any sample was taken for critical analysis should be sent to the Environment laboratory by registered post/ special messenger by the Central Government/ officer in charge.
  • The result of the critical analysis should be recorded in For 3 in triplicate and must be signed by the Government Analyst. This should also be sent to the officer from whom the sample has been received.
  • The Central Government of India may take into consideration various factors for restricting, prohibiting the location of commercial plants and allowing operation in different places.

Pollution Control Act

There are several pollution control Acts in India. Following are those:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1974.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1975.
  • Transaction of Business) Rules, 1975.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules, 1978.
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act- 1981.
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1982.
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Union Territories) Rules, 1983.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act-1986.
  • Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989.
  • Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989.
  • National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995.
  • Central Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (Procedure for
  • Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996.
  • Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.
  • Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999.
  • Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.


This Environment Conservation Act plays an important role in maintaining a balance between the needs and availability of the natural resources in India. Nowadays when the world is suffering from deadly threats like global warming, more Acts like this should be enforced. Even though there are many drawbacks of the Environmental Protection Act 1986, there are ample of advantages too.

Hopefully, this detailed article on the Environmental Protection Act 1986 will help you gather all the required information about it and will let you prepare in a better manner for the upcoming UPSC exam.

So now that when you know everything about the Act, which section do you think is the most important? Do share your inputs by commenting in the box below.

Also Read : What are the Subjects in UPSC Exam? How to Study for IAS Mains?

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Importance & Salient Features of the Environment Protection Act 1986: An Overview of the Aims & Objectives
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Importance & Salient Features of the Environment Protection Act 1986: An Overview of the Aims & Objectives
What are the salient features of environment protection act 1986? What is even its importance in our society? What are the aims and objectives of this act? Let's find out.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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