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Environmental Crime: A Serious Threat to Our Future

To know about 'Environmental Crime' first we should understand the meaning of 'Environment'.

The word environment originated from the old French word 'environer' which means 'surround', 'encase', and 'encircle'. . Environment alludes to the amalgamation of conditions or surrounding where residing creatures like humans, animals, and plants live or sustain and non-living things exist.

Environment addresses the actual parts of the earth, wherein man is a significant component influencing the environment.

The environment contains a connecting arrangement of physical, organic, and social components which are interlinked exclusively as well as on the whole in different ways.

Men And Environment Relationship

The two words Man and Environment are not new to human history and the interrelation between them is well established. Pondering about the environment is just old as our first human precursors. Their survival depended on knowledge of it. Concern for the environment is likewise not new. Since old times, individuals have known the significance of saving it. Worshipping of trees and rivers, animals and birds was not based on superstition but there was a hidden message about preserving and protecting the environment.

Environmental Crime

Environmental crime is a serious crime not exclusively to the current society yet additionally to the upcoming age of people, creatures, and plants.

The term 'environmental crime' does not have a universally accepted definition, and in most instances, the definition is based on the convenience of interpretation. The genesis of such an idea can be owed to deleterious acts/omissions that are responsible for the violation of the environmental law.

According to the United Nations Crime and Justice Research Institute, 'Environmental Crimes encompass a broad list of illicit activities, including illegal trade in wildlife, smuggling of ozone-depleting substances, illicit trade of hazardous waste, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and illegal logging and trade in timber.1

Legally speaking for an act or omission to be categorised as an 'environmental crime' it should:
  1. Cause direct /indirect damage to the environment, and
  2. be prohibited by the law.

The Five Serious Environmental Crimes Are:

  1. Wild Animal Traffic

    The third-largest illegal business in the world after drug and arms trafficking� wild animal traffic raises a serious threat to the world's biodiversity survival. We can find a few actors engaged in this crime, however, buyers are among the main ones as this crime would vanish in the event that supply and the excessive costs that individuals get to pay for them on the black market ceased to exist. As an unpleasant side note the more endangered the species is, the higher the cost is for it. The most requested species are tropical birds (parrots, macaws, etc), arachnids (some types of tarantulas), monkeys (capuchins, chimpanzees, lemurs), and so forth. But animal trafficking does not only intend to sell them as company animals, we also find serious cases like the sale of an elephant or rhinoceros ivory on the black market used to enrich things or potentially in conventional Chinese medication

  2. Indiscriminate Logging

    The main cause of deforestation. The Amazon destruction, the largest rainforest in the world speeded up in 2013 with a 29% rise in deforestation, according to the Brazilian government. The uncontrolled logging to get wood for furniture or other goods or even for farmlands is the most serious cause of this environmental crime.
  3. Electronic Waste Mismanagement

    In the so-called developed countries there are up to 50 million tonnes of electronic waste every year (computers, TV sets, mobile phones, appliances, etc). And up to 75% of all these are estimated to leave the official circuit and a good deal of them are illegally exported to Africa, China or India. It is the case of Ghana's rubbish dump, a large electronic waste dump coming from the west.2

  4. Finning

    A hundred million sharks are captured every year by specialised ships and up to 70 million of them are captured to only have their fins cut off alive on the ship and then a kilogram of a shark fin is worth 600 euros in the Asian market, the finning trade is patently obvious. Besides being beautiful and strong creatures, sharks are essential animals for the tropic chain in oceans and therefore essential for their survival.3

  5. Dumping In Rivers And Aquifers

    This kind of environmental crime is most often caused by companies, factories and Public Administrations. Toxic waste coming from factories is usually dumped in a controlled way, but this is not always the case. In these cases, waste is uncontrollably released into the environment, while at the same time polluting rivers, lakes, aquifers etc. This is a very serious crime because not only does it cause the local wildlife to die or get ill but also, as a result of the water leaking into the soil, it finds its way to pollute the surrounding flora as well, affecting the food chain. 4

NCRB Report On Environmental Crime 5

Environment Crimes are the concurrent murder of not one but many individuals, and of the climate. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)'s latest report has shown that India's overall crime cases increased by 28% in 2020, in comparison to the previous year. But cases under the 'environment-related offences' category increased by 78.1% in the country in 2020. This is one of the highest increases in cases in various crime categories, excluding the offences related to novel corona virus disease (covid-19) regulations and norms in 2020.

Environment-related offences include violations of the Forest Act, The Forest Conservation Act, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, The Environmental (protection) Act, the Air & the Water Pollution Act and the National Green Tribunal Act.

Under the environment crime category, India, as a whole, reported 61,767 cases in 2020. This was an increase of 78.1%, in comparison to cases in 2019. This excluded 7,154 cases pending since 2019.

Tamil Nadu reported the country's highest number of environment-related crimes. In 2020, the state registered 42,756 cases which was more than three times the number of cases registered in 2019.

Rajasthan came second among the states, with 9,543 cases registered in 2020; in 2019, this number was 10,782 cases.

Uttar Pradesh (UP) came third with 2,981 cases in 2020. In 2019, the state registered 1882 cases.

Four- Fifths of the environment-related crimes were registered under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act. There were 49,710 cases of violations of this law or 80.5% of total environment-related cases in 2020.

Violations of noise pollution control laws of both the Union and State governments formed the second-highest number of environment-related cases. The violations accounted for 11.8 per cent of the total cases.

There were 2,287 cases filed under the Forest Act and the Forest Conservation Act. UP recorded the highest number of cases 1,317 in the country under this law.

Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972 there were 672 cases, with UP having the highest number of 185 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 151 cases.

Under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986 the country reported 992 cases, with UP again having the highest number of cases at 841.

The Statutory Provision Dealing With Environmental Crimes

The chief scarcity that the Indian Environmental Law endure is the lack of the consideration that environmental crimes are serious and deep and may take the shape of even an organised crime. The law commission of India has sooner or later recommended that the liberal punishment concerning environmental crimes must be amended to stricter punishments. There is a wide range of provisions and legislations which have been enacted by the Indian government with respect to environmental protection.

Some of the important are discussed hereunder:

The Indian Penal Code,1860

Section 268 accommodates for the offence of public nuisance:
A person is held liable for the offence of public nuisance in the event that he engages himself in any act/omission which causes:
  1. Common injury;
  2. danger/annoyance to the public/people in the vicinity,
  3. necessarily causing injury/obstruction/danger/annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. Section 290 penalises the offence of causing a public nuisance with a fine extending up to 200 rupees. It is indeed astonishing to know that felons of such crimes can go scot-free by paying a mere penalty of a maximum of two hundred rupees or even less than that.

Fouling the water of a public spring or supply is considered to be an environmental crime under section 277 of the IPC. Under this section, to voluntarily corrupt or foul the water of any public spring or reservoir is an offence and the person held liable would be published with imprisonment for a maximum term of 3 months, or with a maximum fine of 500 rupees, or with both. The making of an atmosphere noxious to health is punishable under the IPC under 278.

Under this section, to voluntarily vitiate the atmosphere of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way is a punishable offence. The offence is bound to be punished with a maximum fine of 500 rupees.

The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Chapter x of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 deals with the "maintenance of public order and tranquillity". Part B and Part C enumerate provisions relating to Public Nuisance and urgent cases of nuisance and apprehended danger respectively � both relevant to be considered for environmental protection.

Section 133 (Part B) accommodates the restrictive order for the evacuation of the nuisance. The District Magistrate. Sub Divisional Magistrate/Executive Magistrate is enabled to pass a restrictive order for the expulsion of the nuisance on a report by the police or based on any other information after considering the evidence.

Section 144 (Part C) provides for urgent powers of the District Magistrate /Sub � Divisional Magistrate/Sub � Divisional Magistrate /Executive Magistrate to issue an order in urgent cases of nuisance or, on the other hand, danger in circumstances where an expedient cure is attractive. This section especially presents wide powers to the magistrate to manage critical instances of nuisance or apprehended danger.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

The Wildlife Protection Act,1972 laid down a comprehensive set of rules and regulations with respect to the protection of wildlife in India. It set out the arrangements for the setting up of public parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and so on. Sec 51(1) of the Act says that any person who contravenes any provision of this Act or order made thereunder shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years or with a fine which may extend to 25 thousand rupees or both.

The Water (Prevention And Control Of Pollution) Act, 1974

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 enacted with the objective of preventing and controlling water pollution, assessing pollution levels and punishing polluters, maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness of water and establishing Central and State Board to carry out the objective of the Act. Sec 42 of the Water Act, 1974 states penalties and fines for certain acts including pulling down pillars, obstructing any person acting under the orders or directions of the board from exercising his function, damaging any work or property belonging to the board, knowingly or willfully make a false statement in giving any information or for the purpose of obtaining any consent, 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.

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

The Forest (Conservation) Act,1980 was passed with the object to maintain ecology and preserve the forest of our country and also to regenerate the forest by planting trees and increase the forest by planting trees and increasing the forest growth in our country. This Act has made the restrictions under Sec 2 on the state government and other authorities to make decisions on some matters without the prior permission of the Central Government. Sec 3A was added by the amendment made in 1988. As per this Sec, whoever violates or abets the violation of any law contained under Sec 2 shall be punished with simple imprisonment for any prescribed term which may increase up to 15 days.

The Air (Prevention And Control Of Pollution) Act, 1981

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, was a law passed by the Parliament of India to prevent and control the harmful effects of air pollution in India and to establish the Central and State Board and confer on the board the power to implement the provision of the Act and assign to the board functions relating to pollution. Chapter VI of the Act provides penalties for non-compliance with the provision of the Act.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986

The Environmental Protection Act, of 1986 covers all forms of pollution in the air, water, soil, and noise. It provides the safety standards for the presence of various pollutants in the environment. It restricts the use of hazardous material except if earlier authorization is taken from the Central Government. Sec 15(1) provides a penalty for contravention of the provisions of the Act and the rules, orders, and directions issued thereunder with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to one lakh.

Cigarette And Other Tobacco Act, 2003

Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 prohibits public smoking, and the advertisement of tobacco products, among other things. Sec 24 of the Act provides punishment for the sale of cigarettes or any other tobacco products in certain places or to the person below the age of eighteen years shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to two hundred rupees Sec 22 of the Act provides punishment for advertisement sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products: first conviction up to 2 years of imprisonment or up to 1000 rupees fine or both and for subsequent conviction up to 5 years imprisonment and up to 5000 rupees fine.

National Green Tribunal

The NGT is a specific body that was framed under the NGT Act,2010 for the powerful and speedy removal of cases that are connected with the security and conservation of the environment, forests, and other natural resources, and to give relief and compensation for any damages caused to person and properties and to handle various environmental disputes that involve multi-disciplinary issues.

Sec 26 of the NGT Act,2010 provides a penalty for failure to comply with orders of the Tribunal with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend to ten crore rupees on the other hand with a fine which might reach out to ten crore rupees or with both and in the case of failure that the contravention proceeds, with extra fine which might stretch out to 25 thousand rupees for each day during which such failure or contradiction goes on after conviction for the main such failure or contravention.

Some remarkable principles and doctrines propounded by the Indian Judiciary like:
The doctrine of Absolute liability; Polluter Pays Principles; Precautionary Principle, Public Trust Doctrine; Doctrine of sustainable development, etc for the protection of the Environment. The judiciary attempts to fill in the loopholes where there is a frill in the regulation.

It has been observed that there are too many legislation, principles and doctrine attempts to deal with environmental issues. But as per the report of NCRB which shows a hike in the crime rate against the environment means that this legislation, principles & doctrine are not enough to protect the environment against environmental crime.

Taking into account the impact of this crime on the environment, we need to remember that on multiple occasions they additionally affect individual abuse, defilement violations, money laundering, killings (as on account of unlawful logging), and numerous other related. Environmental crime is a serious hindrance to future development. What we really want strong integrated system that would give an encompassing holistic unified approach and powerful outcomes.

It is time for the environmental provisions to be amended to include organised offences and raise the rigidity of the currently liberal penalties.

  3. Ibid

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ankita Singh

Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JL218981222915-8-0722

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