Lok Sabha passes Water Act to lessen imprisonment worries of industry over water pollution

The amendment makes important changes such as decriminalising certain violations of the Act deemed ‘minor’, replaces most of penalties of imprisonment with fines ranging from ₹10,000 to ₹15 lakh; Opposition calls it ‘draconian’

February 08, 2024 11:25 pm | Updated February 09, 2024 07:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament. File

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed The Water Amendment (Pollution and Prevention) Act, 2024. The legislation, which was introduced and passed in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, makes important changes to the Water (Pollution and Prevention) Act, 1974 such as decriminalising certain violations of the act deemed “minor,” replaces for the most part the penalties of imprisonment with fines ranging from ₹10,000 to ₹15 lakh.

The amended version of the Act would currently apply to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and the Union Territories. The original Act, passed in 1974, is applicable in 12 States.

The legislation also empowers the Centre to frame rules to select the chairpersons of State pollution control boards and frame guidelines that States can follow on matters relating to the grant, refusal or cancellation of consent by any State Board for establishing industries and new operating processes.

“This Bill seeks to establish a balance between the severity of the offence and the gravity of the punishment provided...for decriminalising of minor offences and replacing it with monetary penalty in case of continuation of contravention,” the text of the Act notes.

New provisions

For instance, the 1974 Act says that an offence for which punishment is not explicitly specified is punishable with a prison term of up to three months or a fine of up to ₹10,000, or both. The new amended act removes imprisonment as a punishment, and prescribes a penalty between ₹10,000 and ₹15 lakh. Failure to pay penalty for violation of any provision under the Act will attract a jail term of up to three years, or a fine up to twice the amount of penalty imposed.

“We propose to remove provisions for imprisonment for minor offences...it is geared to the spirit of ease of doing business. If somebody feels that they have been levied an unfair fine, the current Bill also allows an opportunity for appeal,” said Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav in discussions regarding the Bill.

Concerns over amendments

There was spirited discussion in the Lok Sabha with several from the Opposition parties raising concerns that the amendments weakened the laws that protected rivers and water bodies from industrial pollution. “This is a Bill against the children of our country and is against India’s federal structure,” rued Manickam Tagore of the Congress.

“All of the Acts in the last 10 years are being diluted in the name of ‘ease of doing business and living’ and all of this is happening at the cost of environmental laws and labour laws,” said N.K. Premachandran of the RSP. “Totally decriminalising violations means that there is no longer any deterrent to violating environmental laws. This is draconian because what is the role of state government now in safeguarding the environment, he added.

Mr. Yadav defended the amendments on the ground that these changes were not to “protect” industry but to increase employment opportunities. “People must be taken along and must be inspired to make progress,” he added.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.