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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Cases of environment offences rose in 2020, but there’s a catch

Till 2017, offences under Noise Pollution Acts and the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act were not included under environment-related offences.

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: October 24, 2021 9:27:18 am
Majority of cases filed under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act which, experts say, doesn’t fall in category of environment. (File)

The Crime in India report released by the National Crime Records Bureau for 2020 indicates that the number of cases registered for environment-related offences has increased compared to the previous year. In 2020, 61,767 such cases were registered, compared to 34,676 in 2019 and 35,196 in 2018.

Till 2017, offences under Noise Pollution Acts and the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act were not included under environment-related offences. From 2017, when both categories began to be factored in as offences pertaining to the environment, maximum number of cases in the environment category were registered under these acts.

In 2017, maximum number of offences (29,659) was under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. In 2020, 80.5% of environment-related cases were under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (49,710). This was followed by 7,318 cases (11.8%) under Noise Pollution Acts. A total of 2,287 cases were registered under the Forest Act and Forest Conservation Act; followed by 992 under Environmental (Protection) Act; 672 under Wildlife Protection Act; 589 under the Air and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act; and 199 under the National Green Tribunal Act.

Sections under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, include prohibition of smoking in a public place, prohibition of advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products, and prohibition of sale of these products to persons below the age of 18. It lays down the manner in which warnings are to be made and sets out punishments for smoking in certain places, and advertisements.

Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta pointed out that the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act has very little to do with the environment: “It does not fall under the Ministry of Environment or the Pollution Control Boards, and it is not an environmental crime. To show more enforcement, cases have been included under environment-related cases.”

Tamil Nadu registered the highest number of cases, 42,756, of which 42,731 are under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. This was followed by Rajasthan with 9,543 cases (94% of cases were under the Noise Pollution and Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act). UP registered 2,981 cases, including 1,317 under the Forest Act and Forest Conservation Act — the highest under this Act for any State. Fourteen states and two Union Territories have seen an increase in cases compared to 2019.

Only 8 states and Delhi have registered any case under the Air and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act in 2020. Delhi registered a single case under the Act in 2020, the sole case from 2016 onwards. In 2020, Delhi registered 23 environment-related offences (16 under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 6 under the Wildlife Protection Act), up from 14 in 2019.

“The dismal record shows when we look at the number of cases filed under the Air and Water Act. Under this Act, the Pollution Control Board will have to register a case before a magistrate. There are hardly any cases under this Act in most polluted cities,” Dutta said.

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