IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th December, 2023 Polity


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Picture Courtesy: www.mapsofindia.com

Context: Indian courts faced a backlog of over 88,400 environment-related cases, resolving an average of 129 cases daily, far from the required 242 cases per day needed to clear the backlog within a year.


  • The disposal rates for environment-related cases in Indian courts remained a pressing concern in 2022. Over 88,400 cases were pending trials, with an average of 129 cases resolved daily, falling short of the required pace. The slowest disposal rate was observed for cases under the Environmental (Protection) Act.
    • To clear the backlog within a year, the courts needed to dispose of at least 242 cases per day, almost double the rate achieved.
  • The backlog of environment-related cases in India represents a substantial challenge for the country's judicial system and environmental protection efforts.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2022:

  • Indian courts are resolving an average of 139 environment-related cases daily, which is insufficient to clear the existing backlog.
  • Different environmental acts experience disparate disposal rates. The Environment Protection Act shows the slowest rate, with a projected 34 years required to clear the backlog.
  • Specific acts, such as the Air and Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Acts and the Forest Act, are accumulating cases and would take over 8 and 17 years, respectively, to clear at the current pace.

Causes of the Backlog

  • Limited Resources: Indian courts face understaffing and insufficient infrastructure. This scarcity of resources hampers their ability to handle the increasing influx of cases, leading to a backlog.
  • Complex Legal Procedures: Environmental laws in India are often intricate and multifaceted. Their complexity makes interpretation and application by judges time-consuming, contributing to delays in case disposal.
  • Lack of Public Awareness: Many citizens are unaware of their environmental rights and the mechanisms available to address environmental violations. This results in under-reporting of such incidents, adding to the backlog.
  • Corruption: Corruption within the judicial system can impede the timely resolution of cases, further exacerbating the backlog.

Consequences of the Backlog

  • Environmental Degradation: Delayed justice allows environmental violators to continue their harmful activities, leading to ongoing damage to ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources.
  • Loss of Public Trust: Slow legal proceedings erode public confidence in the judicial system. This lack of trust might deter individuals from reporting environmental crimes or seeking legal recourse.
  • Economic Impact: Environmental degradation can result in economic losses, including decreased agricultural productivity, increased healthcare costs due to pollution-related illnesses, and damage to industries reliant on a healthy environment.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Increased Funding: Allocate more resources to courts and pollution control boards for better infrastructure, hire more judges and staff, and enhance training programs.
  • Simplification of Legal Procedures: Streamline environmental laws and regulations to make them more comprehensible and easier to implement.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educate the public about their environmental rights and encourage reporting of violations, fostering greater community participation in environmental protection.
  • Tackling Corruption: Implement stringent measures to address corruption within the judicial system, ensuring fair and expedited trials.
  • Adopting Technology: Employ technological advancements like online case management systems to streamline processes and improve transparency.
  • Specialized Environmental Courts: Consider establishing specialized courts with judges and staff well-versed in environmental law to handle these cases efficiently.

Environment Protection Act 1986

  • The Environment Protection Act 1986 aims to protect and improve the quality of the environment and prevent, control and abate environmental pollution.
  • It was enacted in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters in history that killed thousands of people and exposed millions to toxic gases. The tragedy exposed the lack of adequate legal framework and enforcement mechanisms to deal with environmental issues in India.
  • The act was also influenced by the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, which emphasized the need for a global approach to environmental protection and sustainable development.

Key features of the act are:

  • It defines the terms "environment", "environmental pollutant", "environmental pollution", "hazardous substance" and "occupier" in a comprehensive manner.
  • It gives the central government the authority to prescribe standards for the quality of air, water and soil, and to regulate industrial and other activities that may cause environmental pollution.
  • It authorizes the central government to issue directions to any person, officer or authority for the closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry or activity that is causing or likely to cause environmental pollution.
  • It empowers the central government to appoint officers as it may deem necessary for carrying out the provisions of the act.
  • It provides for penalties and punishments for violating the provisions of the act or any rules or orders made under it.
  • It confers the right to any person to file a complaint before a court for any injury or damage caused by environmental pollution.
  • It empowers the central government to make rules for implementing the provisions of the act.


  • The EPA 1986 provides a comprehensive framework for addressing various environmental issues, including air and water pollution, hazardous waste management, and biodiversity conservation.
  • It has provided a legal framework and a mechanism for addressing environmental issues at the national level.
  • It has enabled the central government to take preventive and remedial measures to control environmental pollution and safeguard public health and welfare.
  • It has established standards and norms for environmental quality and compliance.
  • It has facilitated public participation and awareness in environmental matters.
  • It has promoted environmental education and research.


  • Lack of coordination and cooperation among various ministries, departments, agencies and authorities involved in environmental management.
  • Lack of adequate human, financial and technical resources and infrastructure for monitoring, inspection and enforcement.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making and rule-making processes.
  • Lack of public awareness and involvement in environmental issues.
  • Lack of effective grievance redressal and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Way forward

  • Strengthening inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination and cooperation for integrated environmental management.
  • Enhancing human, financial and technical capacities and infrastructure for effective monitoring, inspection and enforcement.
  • Improving transparency and accountability in decision-making and rule-making processes by ensuring public consultation, participation and access to information.
  • Increasing public awareness and involvement in environmental issues by using various media platforms, campaigns and programs.
  • Establishing effective grievance redressal and dispute resolution mechanisms by creating specialized tribunals, courts or commissions.


  • The Environment Protection Act 1986 is a comprehensive and important piece of legislation that has played a vital role in environmental protection in India. However, there is a need for continuous improvement and strengthening of the Act to address the emerging environmental challenges and ensure a sustainable future for the country.

Must Read Articles:

Environment Protection Act 1986: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/environment-protection-act-epa


Q. What are the key provisions and objectives of the Environment Protection Act 1986, and how has it contributed to the preservation and improvement of environmental quality in the country?