The article focuses on crimes that are against environment, with a close
emphasis with law, it is meant to understand what law has to do with
environment, especially when there is damage caused to the environment because
of human activities, which are in the nature of self harm. By this research it
would become a little clearer that why we humans are self harming ourselves, or
bringing ourselves close to human extinction on earth, as we know that law is
the command of the sovereign, backed by a sanction.
Nature of Crime Against Environment and Wildlife
Crime against environment and wildlife are the acts that cause damage to the
environment and wildlife around us, they are considered as a category under the
organized criminal activities around the globe, it is the fourth largest area of
crime in the list of organized crime.
These crimes are also known as Green-Collar Crimes, under which there are
various crimes listed, for instance:
- Illegal trade of wildlife
- Trade of unregulated and illegal products, for financial and material
gains- for example trade of timber, ivory, rhino horns or even sandalwood.
- Unreported fishing
- Illegal logging
These are under crimes against environment, these are listed by the United
Nations Inter-regional Crime and Justice Research Institution.
These crimes are on there rise, according to a survey done in 2017, in India,
there had been a humongous jump of cases in India against environment and
wildlife, which has been around 790% from that in 2016.
There have a lot of steps taken up by the government to increase the reporting
of the cases, as there has been rise in awareness of the crime against
environment and wildlife
Due to awareness there has been a rise in the activist movement all over the
country to bring the animal rights in India, with proper law enforcement, there
has been a rise in the movement which is meant to be the voice for the
voiceless, which is the nature, environment in which we live in.
The Nature of Crimes against Environment and Wildlife under law is:
The above are explained below:
- Cognizable- These are the offenses under which the police does not
require a warrant to arrest the accused, for example- Forgery ,Rape,
- Non-Cognizable- These are the offenses under which the police does
require a warrant to arrest the accuses, for example- Theft,
- Compoundable- These are those offenses under which the person who has
filled the complaint, enters a compromise with the accused, to lift of the
charges against the accused. Example- Trespass, Breach of Contract.
- Non-Compoundable- These are those offenses under which there cannot be a
compromise between the accused and the victim to get the charges nullified.
Example- Murder, Fraud.
- Bailable- These are those offenses under which, the bail is a right of
the accused, which is granted by the police. After the signing of a bail
bond. For example- unlawful assembly, causing nuisance
- Non-Bailable- These are the offenses in which, bail is not a matter of
right for the accused, but it can be granted by the court, if the accused
applies for it, and the court finds sufficient need for the bail. Here also
a bail bond is signed. For example- Rape, attempt to murder.
Motive behind environmental crimes
These crimes, which are against the environment are not crimes that are driven
because of something spontaneous, these crimes are planned, these crimes are not
only responsible for environment degradation, but many other effects.
- The first and the most important motive to commit any act is gaining
material benefits and financial gains, many activities are done, just for
the sake of earning money and it is a motivator, for commissioning of these
types of crime, there are more motives behind these types of environmental
- To gain control- sometimes environmental crimes are done to gain
control, it can be a territory, a product, to gain monopoly.
Damage Caused Till Now
Till now there has been a huge impact that has been caused to the environment
because of human activities, the damage caused is beyond repair, but still it
can be recovered if humans are able to understand the following statistics:
- Each year humans consume more then 50 billion tons of natural resources
- At the speed at which the deforestation is being done, for any purpose,
the rainforest will be there only for the next 80 years, after that we won't
have any rainforest, they are responsible for a great percentage of fresh
oxygen that human life depend upon.
- Humans have disposed off nearly 10 crore tons of hazardous waste on in
the year of 2020
- By some predictions humans will require another earth like planet to
sustain life on the actual earth, we are consuming the near future, we are
consuming the whole planet. But humans don't realize that they only have
- Humans have consumed more then half of the coral reefs, and they are
consuming at an increasing level, by the next 30 years there won't be any
coral reefs. They are being lost because of human activities that cause rise
in the see water temperature, Acidification and Algae.
- humans will lose all there fisheries by 2050, which are the lungs of the
- Humans eat, destroy, consume more then 2 billion innocent animals and
plants each week.
- Humans are responsible for wiping out more then Ten Thousand animal and
plant species every year.
- It takes nearly 50,000 liters of fresh water to make 1 kilogram of meat.
The above damage is only caused by one single specie, out a lakhs of species
or even more. This is considered to be the 6th mass extinction of cosmological
history, The earth can produce for the needs, but not for greed, is not a quote
anymore, but it is becoming to the new harsh truth. It is believed that if there
will a drop in consumption of meat by 10%, it will lead to the end of
What are crimes against humanity?
Before crime against humanity, it is necessary to understand the meaning of
crime and its impact on humanity, Crime in lay man's language can be seen as a
act against the individual, which causes damage to that specific person, but the
legal definition of crime is the acts that are forbidden in a civil society,
and are illegal also punishable by law enforced in a territory, is crime.
Lets see the impact of crimes in a human society, and understand what it means.
The impact of any crime is not only felt on the individual, against whom the
crime has been committed but it is felt within the whole society, that's why a
crime is considered as an act against the state.
In total there are 9 acts which are considered as crime against humanity, some
of them are as follows:
- Sexual Violence
- Enforced disappearance
- Other violent activities which cause mental and physical harm.
Above we see that there is no mention of environment and wildlife crimes,
because they have not been taken up seriously till now, humans are still
negligent about there approach towards the environment, as mentioned in the
previous page, under damage caused till now
we have seen that, humans
extract more then 50 Billion Tons of natural resources, at this speed, humans
aren't over-extracting, they aren't consuming the resources they are consuming
the whole planet. humans are not realizing that they only have one single earth,
the damage that they are causing to it, is going to reciprocate, with the damage
caused to the humans, by harming the environment, we are harming ourselves, that
world can only be a better place, if we humans are able to sustain with it ,this
will be discussed further under the global scenario.
Why are environment and wildlife crimes against humanity?
Environmental damage caused by humans ,is harming the humans themselves ,humans
are damaging there own future by damaging the environment in the present days,
above we have seen that the damage caused to humans is a crime against humanity,
but the international community nor the domestic community, have understood, the
need for having laws, which are strict enough, to stop, and prevent
environmental damage, from a single individual, to the whole world, everyone is
responsible for the damage caused till now, either for causing damage, or for
not stopping the damage being caused, some have caused a lot of damage, some
have caused a little, but everyone has contributed to the damage caused till
now. There re no limits to the crimes that have been committed, the damage , the
killings, that the humans have caused cannot be describe in mere numbers, we
humans have done an act, that would be done by the a VIRUS
When we kill an animal, we are taking away a life, just to fulfill some mere
desires of a human nature, when we cut a tree, we are welcoming our own end, we
humans have disrupted the Food chain, with every step we move forward towards
development, we are causing mass murder of species.
If this isn't a crime, what will be.
By damaging the environment, we are damaging our own future, with which we are
losing our own world. There are many people that die, or loose everything they
have just because of human activities, which have been unprecedented. There are
droughts, vanishing of rivers, melting of ice caps, rise in the water level,
global Warming all because of the humans.
Existing laws in India, for prevention of crime against environmental and
In India there have been many different legislation , passed by the parliament,
and different States, with focusing of different areas of environment, like air
,water, prevention of pollution ,forest, and many more, all the acts that are
currently under enforcement, are listed down below ,with the mentioned year that
they were introduced also with there major aims and objectives.
The following are the acts that are still enforced in India:
- National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The Air Act, 1981
- The Water Act, 1974
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- Hazardous Wastes (management, handling and trans-boundary) Rules, 2008
- The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
- Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
- Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- Noise Pollution (regulation and control) Act, 2000
The above are the major legislation which are currently enforceable in India,
these laws have had some major amendment, which shall be discussed further under
All these acts have different golas and aims, but the ultimate goal is same and
it is to, preserve the planet, prevent pollution, and help in progress but in a
sustainable developmental manner, Because the ultimate goals are the same, these
laws are somewhere interlinked.
The following are the objectives of the above mentioned acts. (FIRST FIVE):
National Green Tribunal Act, of 2010 has the following objectives:
- To provide efficient and effective disposal of matters relating to
- To provide compensation and remedies for the damages caused to the
victims- the property or persons.
- To Revoke two legislative acts of the Parliament, passed in 1995, and
- To deal with other environmental issues.
The Air Act, 1981
- To prevent air pollution
- To control air Pollution
- To assign Central and State boards for the above mentioned purpose
- To punish the violators of the act
- To deal with the matters related to air, its prevention and control.
The Water Act, 1974
- To prevent water pollution
- To control Water Pollution
- To assign Central and State boards for the above mentioned purpose
- To punish the violators of the act
- To deal with the matters related to water, its prevention and control.
Environment Protection Act, 1986
- To improve the environmental conditions
- To uphold the 26 principles of the Stockholm declaration 1972.
- To take strict precedence action against those who harm the environment
- To provide the central government with the power to take strict action
to prevent the degradation of the environment.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- To prohibit the hunting of specified wild animals, birds and plants.
- To setup management of national parks ,wildlife reserves and
- To control trade and commerce of the wildlife and its products.
There have been some major and important and latest amendment in the domestic
environment law of India, those amendments are as follows. These laws have
relaxed and put restrictions both.
- Under the notification of Environmental Impact Assessment, in
2006,helped in relaxation of infrastructure, but at the cost of mass danger,
before this amendment ,nearly every big project required but now projects
which cover the area less the 50,000 meter square does not require advanced
permission from the government.
- In Coastal regulation under the environment protection act, an amendment
was brought in 1996 which helped in increasing the tourism in India, but
again at the cost of environment, in this government lifted up the
requirement of advanced permission by the government, to start any project
in coastal regions.
The above were laws that relaxed the restriction by the government the following
are the amendments which helped the government have proper regulations in
environmental policies, they are as follows:
- The motor vehicles act (Amendment)2019- this law specifically focused on
increasing the penalty of violations of any motor vehicle law, by 100%
earlier the people who were required to pat Rs. 100 now had to pay Rs. 1000 for the same
crime, this law had a lot of impact, people started following road laws, and
proper equipment in the cars to prevent environmental damage. But different
states in India brought the situation back to square 1 when they amended to
state laws, by bringing the fines again at nominal rates, for political and
- Factories Act of 1987, this was a much needed law, after the Bhopal gas
tragedy, it brought strict laws, for the factories, who are mostly
responsible for environment degradation, and strictness was used in drafting
these law to maintain proper check on the factories ,to see if the basic
standards are being met or not.
Impact of these laws:
As seen above, India has its own legislation for environmental protection, and
tools to prevent these types of crimes, now lets see, the impact of these
legislation so far, has it been able to achieve its goals?
So far there have been many legislation, from 1853 till 2018 to now in
2020,there have been many environmental laws, all these laws target to create
awareness about environment, its protection, and these laws have shown the
concern of the government ,for the environment.
These laws have had there impact on the environment of India, some of these laws
have helped in preventing environmental damage, while some have not been so
impact-full, these laws have had a varied impacts, these impacts range from a
single individual to the whole country.
These laws have had both positive and negative impacts , there is a requirement
of new laws, that a efficient enough to create awareness aiming the people,
which are there to make the work judiciary easy and not be lenient on the
wrongdoers, these laws in India have had a satisfactory response till now, I has
because of continuous interference of the judiciary and its precedents.
The government has drafted the legislation, but they need to take care of the
environment, as it has been taking care of ou and our needs.
Since 1990 the government has started taking seriously and since 2015 India has
become a global partner in saving the environment.
Domestic Case laws
Case law are the cases, which have the power of being binding in domestic
courts. They play an important law, by being a source of law, there have been
many cases in the past, both in international and domestic legal sphere, the
following are some of the most important case laws, in the domestic sphere of
judicial system which have given new bright turns to the environmental law, in
- Municipal Council,Ratlam v. Vardhichand and Ors 1980 AIR
1622,1981 SCR (1)
Also known as the Ratlam city case, is considered to be a landmark, and a very
important judgement given by the supreme court of India, in this case the court
observed the impact of deteriorating urban environment, on the poor living in
the urban area,in this case, public health was recognized as a human right,
which obliged the municipal council, to take proper steps, especially in
managing the drainage facilities in Ratlam.
- M.C Mehta v. Union of India (Shriram Industries Case) 1987 SCR
(1) 819,AIR 1987 965
Also known as the shriram gas leak case, is a prominent judgment in the
environmental case laws in India, this was a gas leak of food chemicals in the
capital of the country ,in New Delhi, in this case the court observed that
company in under absolute liability, to pay the compensation to the victims of
the gas leak, this was the first case in India , in which the concept of
absolute liability was introduced, this was also the first case in India in
which the accused was penalized, and was asked to pay for the damage caused, and
pay compensation to the victims of the gas leak.
- M.C Mehta v. Union of India (Ganga case) 1988 AIR 1115,1988 SCR
Also known as the Ganga pollution case, this is a case, which is considered
to be the most important case ,for rivers and there rights, in this case the
court observed, and closed many tanneries around and in the city of Kanpur,
Uttar Pradesh, as Ganga is one of the largest rivers in India, there are
many industries, which cause pollution. Justice E.S Venkataramiah observed
just like an industry which cannot pay minimum wages to its workers cannot
be allowed to exist,a tannery which cannot set up a primary treatment plant
cannot be permitted to continue to be in existence
- Tarun Bharat Singh, Alwar v. Union of India and Ors 1993 SCR (3)
21,1993 SCC Sulp. (3) 115
In this case the court banned mining in the sariska national park region, but
sadly according to reports in 2015 the mining in sariska has been in full swing,
it is causing harm to the environment. And there have been no writ petition
filled in the supreme court, not even under article 21 in which the right
guarantees to have a safe and healthy environment
Till now there have been multiple declarations, and treaties on the
international surface ,to control, and prevent environmental degradation. Some
of these are mentioned below:
Declarations: There have been many declaration in the past by the international community
in regard to the environment, and how to tackle the environmental issue, but
the two landmark declarations have been the following, these declarations
are not formally binding on any country, it is based on the moral duty of
the countries for prevent and stop the harm that they have done on the
- Stockholm Declaration of 1972 also known as United Nations
conference on human environment
It was the first ever United Nations declaration, that primarily focused on the
environment and environment degradation, its primary aim was to provide with a
‘plan of action' for the governments and there countries, around the world. It
listed down 26 principles which shall be followed by each and every country
despite being developed, or under developed or developing, these principles
recognized both the environmental problems which were faced during that time,
and environmental problems which were faced after that, till now.
This declaration also had a main focus on what environment has faced the
impact of human activities, both in the positive light and the negative
side, in positive it appreciated the role of science and technology in
helping the proper and efficient use of land , water and air, but it also
targeted the negative side by the degradation caused by the humans on the
planet, it also kept the foundation of the future coming Rio Declaration of 1992, and also for sustainable
development. Which goes hand in hand with protection of the environment and
development in the human society.
- And the Rio Declaration 1992 also known as Agenda 21.
This summit is also referred as the successor of the Stockholm declaration of
1972,as it kept all the principles of the Stockholm declaration, and introduced
new ideas, which focused on global partnership, in eradicating these kind of
activities which harm the environment. It introduced two new concepts which are
most important today, there were sustainable development and global partnership,
sustainable development mean that the resources shall be used to its optimum
efficiency, and judiciously, to save them for the future generations.
Treaties: these are bilateral or multilateral agreement between
countries around the world the following are some International treaties in
which India is a signatory.
In the above we can see that these treaties mainly focus on the international
cooperation, these treaties have listed down penalties, but due to lack of
power, an lack of funds, and lack of cooperation between the
international organizations and the countries, it has not been able to have such
an impact, which were expected out of it.
- The Antarctic treaty (Washington 1959)
India became a party to this treaty in the year of 1983, the treaty has been
able to save Antarctica from territorial capturing, as it has suspended
territorial claims, this treaty prohibits all military activities in the
Antarctic region, this treaty is mainly focused on international cooperation,
also to grant the freedom of scientific research to all the countries signatory
to this treaty.
- Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes,1989
India became a party to this treaty in the year of 1992, and India ratified this
treaty, to enforce it in India, this act came to be known as the Indian
Hazardous Waste Management Rules Act,1989 This treaty mainly focuses on
reducing the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, this treaty's main goal
was to bring down the source of these hazardous waste. It prohibits any tansport
of hazardous waste in the International sphere, and also to the countries
signatory to it.
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,(UNFCCC)1992
Indian signed this treaty the same year in 1992, and ratified it in 1993. In the
year of 1992, there were concerns over the development methodology of the
countries, with focus on the categories, dividing the countries on the basis of
the developmental tag, like Developed, Developing ,under-Developed and etc.
that wasn't enough, the world had just started to see the harmful effects of
Carbon dioxide, which lead to this treaty to focus on the carbon emission, that
lead ultimately to global warming. The main objective of this treaty was to
bring up international cooperation, to help in reducing the carbon emission
levels in the world, and bring global warming to an end, but sadly this never
happened, and the rate at which carbon emissions are here today, have never been
in the past.
United Nations Convention on Desertification,1994
It was signed by India in the same year of 1994, this treaty has the objective
of cooperation in the international sphere in preventing desertification in
drought prone area, and also focuses on the alleviation of desertification and
it related impacts.
Impact of COVID-19 on Environment so Far
There has been a new virus, which has impacted our lives to its deepest effect
,more then half of the world is under lockdown, it is happening because there is
no prescribed cure, and its a communicable disease, which is life threatening,
with the lockdown coming into effect soon after the pandemic outbreak, there
have been a huge impact for the environment, I would be mentioning both
the Indian scenario, and global impact of COVID-19.
In India the lockdown started from 24th of March 2020. since then there have
been 2 extensions, the first lockdown was of 21 days till 14th April 2020,the
second lockdown was extended till 3rd May 2020, and the Third extension happened
till 17th May 2020.
There have been the following impacts:Major River of Northern plains:
Ganga, it is considered as the holiest river in
India, there are many many industries on the banks of this river, the government
has been promoting a scheme Namami-Gange, but it was not able to make any
difference in the quality of water of ganga, but within 10 days of the lockdown
in India, the water of ganga, was given the tag of healthy to consume directly
from the river, dolphins were seen in the river after nearly 2 decades.
Drastic drop in pollution level and changing of Air Quality Index(AQI) from
Hazardous to Good. In major parts of the country, the pollution level was very
high, it was considered that out of 10,7 were in India. But due to lockdown
,shutdown of major industries and, nearly stop of transportation, the AQI which
wasn't coming down from 170-200 in New Delhi, came down to 20-25, this also
happened after more then a decade.
Now the highest peak of the world, can seen by a village in Bihar- there is a
village by the name of singhwahini in the state of Bihar, which is nearly 200
Kilometers away from Mount Everest. And people are calling it the nature is
Global Impact of COVID-19
- Disappearance of the ozone-hole above Antarctic zone.
The hole in the ozone had been of great concern to the environmentalist in the
past decade, but since lockdown has happened it looks like everything, is going
the right way, for the environment. It has been able to revive itself, and
humans should learn from it, rather then returning to there lives, causing more
and more harm to the environment in which we have to survive as we only have on
one planet in which we can survive.
- Biggest Carbon crash ever recorded, due to the shutdown of industries
around the globe, that has seen the greatest slump in carbon element, its
happening both because of the lockdown and the environment getting time to
revive itself. Its a great news as there has been a recently a discovery of
a link between the virus and air pollution, and by reduction in carbon
footprints the pollution is reducing all around the globe, all this is a
positive effect of COVID-19.
- There have been many-many environmental benefits, because of the
lockdown, yes humans may have faced a lot of problems , but these cannot be
compared to the problems humans have given to the environment around us.
This part of the paper tries to deal with how law provides remedies to
the environment, by punishing the wrong doers. This will only cover the
domestic Indian laws, that are used to punish them. The nature on these remedies
can be divided into three parts, as Constitutional, Civil and Criminal.
- Constitutional Remedies:
- 42nd Constitutional Amendment- It gave the constitution many amendments
, but for the environment, there were two major amendments, they were 48-A
and 51-A, they are explained below.
- Article 48-A, it is under part IV of the Indian Constitution, under the
Directive Principle of State Policies, it is titled as Protection and
improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife it is
interoperated that the government has the responsibility to safeguard the
forest and wildlife.
The court has the power to apply financial sanctions on the wrong doers, but
recently they have started using imprisonment, as a tool, under the jurisdiction
of the court and the intensity of the crime.
- Article 51-A, it is under the Part V of the Indian Constitution, under
the fundamental duties, it is titled as fundamental duties there
was an addition of a duty (g) which is interpreted that the people have the
duty and the obligation towards the environment, that they need to protect
the rivers, wildlife ,and they are needed to have compassion for all the
living creatures around them.
- Article 21
Article 21 of the Indian constitution has the most expansive interpretation, it
deals with the right to life and personal liberty, it guarantees it, till the
time there is no need to take away this right by law.
So under M.C Mehta vs.
Union of India, it was also held that the people have the right to have a safe
and UN-polluted environment, and it should be guaranteed by the government
itself. It is the responsibility of the government and the citizens of the
nation,to guarantee this right to each other, this right is not only for the
citizens, it is also for the non-citizens of India, under this if anyone is
caught casing harm to the environment, which leads or may lead to death, can be
charged with trying to murder under the penal code of India.
These were the constitutional remedies the below are the civil remedies which
exist in India, they are as follows, they mainly focus on monetary and financial
punishments, and short-termed imprisonment also, depending upon the jurisdiction
of the courts and the intensity of crime.
- Civil Remedies:
nuisance is in both private and public sense, but it is most prominent in
public sense, it is basically creating an obstruction for someone to enjoy ,
His/her own property, so whenever any person causes public nuisance he/she
can be charged under section 91 of CPC(Civil Procedure Code) and the
District Magistrate has the power to to restrain such activities and declare
it as public nuisance.
It is invasion with the intention of doing that, it has 2 main components
which are, intention and direct in nature.
- Strict Liability:
Act of god, commission of act by third party ,fault of plaintiff himself
The following are the Criminal Remedies under the Indian Penal Code
The following sections of the IPC deal with public safety, public health ,public
- Section 268 to-Section 294-A
- Section 269-271- spread of infectious disease is a public nuisance and a crime
- Section 277- to prevent water pollution
- Section 290- Smoking in public is a crime
- Section 426-Pollution caused by mischief
- Section 430-Pollution caused by mischief
- Section 431-Pollution caused by mischief
- Section 432-Pollution caused by mischief
All the above are crime and these crimes are public in nature, which means that
the are against the state. Financial Sanction, Imprisonment or both are used as
We as humans have done enough to damage the planet, and this planet has given
the humans everything thing they need ,but because of the human greed, that is
present in the society, has lead to this damage.
There are ways that we humans can recover but it will take time, but firstly we
require proper law enforcement, to bring an end to these kind of activities ,and
even before that
We need new laws, which are strict enough, to apply the principle of deterrence.
This Article has focused to bring the crimes against environment and wildlife
closer to the crime against humanity, crime against environment and wildlife,
should be considered as a crime against humanity.
This environment has been there to fulfill each and every need of the humans, we
need to take care of the environment as it has taken our care.
The environment doesn't need humans for its existence the humans need
environment for there survival.
In India and around the world we have many thinker, many laws, many activist
,but its the role of very single individual which contributes to environment
degradation, or environment development.
We have many things to do, but we cannot do, till the time we are not able to
save our environment,
This COVID-19 virus is a blessing in disguise, it has helped the environment
revive itself from all the harm done by the humans around the globe, yes it has
caused many deaths, that is where we need to understand that nothing is in our
control, and neither we should ever think of controlling anything.
In conclusion I can say, that with every step that we plan to take towards the
environment we should take only after assessing every factor, we should follow
the principles , and laws. We should respect and take care of the environment,
as we can only develop till the time life exist in this planet, and existence of
life is really close to a environment. Without environment there is no life, and
without life there are no humans.
- Bare Act- Constitution of India
- Bare Act- Air act,1981
- Bare Act- Water act,1974
- Bare Act- Environment protection act,1986
- Bare Act- National Green Tribunal Act,2010
- Bare Act- Wildlife protection Act,1972
- Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
- Book - Environmental Law by Dr. Paramjit S. Jaswal ,Dr. Nishtha Jaswal, &
Ms. Vibhuti Jaswal
- Patten, D. Motivations, opportunities, and controls of environmental
crime: an empirical test of Kramer and Michalowski's integrated theoretical model of
state-corporate crime. Crime Law Soc Change 72, 195–210 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-019-09811-2