Polluters beware! Modi govt introduces new law for clean air in Delhi-NCR; Rs 1 crore fine, 5-year jail term for violators

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Updated: Oct 29, 2020 9:20 PM

Under the ordinance, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has been dissolved and replaced by a commission comprising over 20 members.

Delhi, Delhi pollution, air pollution, smog, smog gun, AQI, air quality, winter, Delhi air pollution, Rs 1 crore, jail, Prakash Javadekar, environmentAs per the ordinance, the adjoining areas where it shall be in force include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adjoining areas of the NCR and Delhi. (Photo: The Indian Express)

Faced with rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Centre has introduced a new law through an ordinance that puts in place a powerful oversight body and provides for up to five years of jail term and Rs 1 crore fine for violators with immediate effect. Under the ordinance released by the Ministry of Law and Justice on Thursday, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has been dissolved and replaced by a commission comprising over 20 members.

Talking to reporters, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the move of bringing a law through ordinance to curb air pollution in Delhi and NCR is “significant”, and it will ensure reduction in pollution in the city and neighbouring areas. “It will prove to be effective and successful. This commission has been established to check pollution in the neighbouring areas which cause pollution in the capital. The panel can take stern action against violators of the ordinance. They can be penalised heavily and even suffer a sentence of five years. I am sure this new law will ensure reduction in pollution in Delhi and NCR,” Javadekar said.

The commission has been set up under the ordinance, which was signed by the president on Wednesday, to ensure strict compliance. However, the members are yet to be selected. The commission shall have the power to lay down parameters of air quality, parameters of discharge of environmental pollutants, to inspect premises violating the law, ordering closure of non-abiding industries/plants etc.

“The ordinance may be called the Commission for Air Quality Management In National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020. It shall apply to national capital region and also adjoining areas in so far as it relates to matters concerning air pollution in the NCR. It shall come into force at once,” the ordinance said.

As per the ordinance, the adjoining areas where it shall be in force include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adjoining areas of the NCR and Delhi where any source of pollution is located and is causing adverse impact on air quality in the national capital region. It said that the commission can restrict any industry, operations or processes or class of industries that may have implications on air quality in the region. It said that the orders of the commission shall prevail in case there is a conflict between the central pollution control board and the state pollution control boards.

“Any non-compliance or contravention of any provisions/rules or order/direction of the commission will be an offence punishable with a jail term up to five years or with fine up to Rs one crore or with both,” it said. The commission may take up matter suo motu or on the basis of complaints, the ordinance said, adding that any appeal against any direction of the panel shall lie only with the National Green Tribunal.

The ordinance comes following a statement made by the Centre through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the Supreme Court on October 26 during a matter related to pollution in the NCR in which he had said the Centre will bring a new legislation on “air quality management in the national capital region and adjoining areas”. As per the new law, the Supreme Court appointed-EPCA which was formed in 1998, has been dissolved and any action taken by it shall be deemed to have been taken under the corresponding provisions of the ordinance.

“The order made under environment protection act 1986, constituting Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) For the national capital region wide order dated January 29, 1998, is hereby repealed and the EPCA is here by dissolved,” it said. The members of the commission include a chairperson, who is or has been the secretary of Government of India or chief secretary of a state, a representative of environment secretary and five ex-officio members who are either chief secretaries or secretaries in charge of the environment department of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The commission will also include two full-time members who have been joint secretaries to the central government, three full-time independent technical members who have specific scientific knowledge regarding air pollution, one technical member from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), one technical member nominated by ISRO and three members of NGOs having experience in matters concerning combating of air pollution.

“There shall be a full-time secretary who shall be the chief coordinating officer of the commission and shall assist in managing the affairs of the commission,” it said. Other than these, the panel may also appoint associate members, one representative each from Ministry of Road Transport, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and a representative of any association of commerce and industry. The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until she/he attains the age of 70 years. The commission will have three sub-committees, one each for monitoring and identification, safeguarding and enforcement, and research and development. It will have power to take mitigation measures, issue directions/orders suo moto and entertain complaints under any other existing laws such as the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

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