Salient features of The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 2024

Salient features of The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 2024

(Click here for Earlier and Substituted Provisions)

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 has been amended through The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024 and is called the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 2024.

It shall come into force, at once in the States of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan and the Union territories, and in any other State which adopts this Act under clause (1) of article 252 of the Constitution read with clause (2) thereof on the date of such adoption.

The penal provisions have been simplified. While fiscal penalties have been made more stringent, the provision of imprisonment has been restricted to only grave offences. For non-compliances where fiscal penalties have been provided, the amount of penalty has been fixed as Rs. 10000 to Rs. 15 Lakhs with an additional penalty of Rs. 10000 per day for every additional day the contravention continues. Imprisonment is now provided for only noncompliance of provisions of consent under section 25/26 and not paying the penalty in the specified time.

Some salient features of the amendment are being given below.

  • The amendment to section 25 relating to consent management, empowers the Central Government to exempt certain categories of Industrial plants from the provisions of seeking consent under section 25 of the Water Act. Industrial Plants have not been defined for the Water Act. They have however been defined under the Air Act to mean any plant used for any industrial or trade purposes and emitting any air pollutant into the atmosphere.
  • The Amendment to Section 27 now empowers the Central Government to notify guidelines on matters relating to the grant, refusal or cancellation of consent to establish or operate by any State Board including prescribing a mechanism for time bound disposals of applications and the period of validity of such consents and makes the State Boards responsible to act in accordance to these guidelines while discharging responsibilities under section 25 or section 27 of the Water Act 1974. Earlier, as per section 64 of the Water Act, the State Government was empowered to make rules for the formats in which applications were to be made, the manner of enquiry and the matters to be taken into account in granting or refusing such consents. Maybe, an amendment in section 64 to this account could also have been done.
  • Section 41 now provides that failure to provide information as directed under section 20(1 and2) will invite a penalty of Rs. 10000 to Rs. 15 Lakhs with an additional penalty of Rs. 10000 per day for every additional day the contravention continues.
  • Section 41A (1 and 2) provides that noncompliance of directions related to taking emergency measures under section 32, failure to follow the directions of the Courts as issued under section 33 or failure to comply with directions for closure etc. issued under 33A will invite a penalty which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees, but which may extend to fifteen lakh rupees with an additional penalty of ten thousand rupees every day during which such contravention continues.”.
  • Destruction, obstruction, making false statements or failing to intimate accidents as provided under section 42 of the Act will now attract a penalty which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees, but which may extend to fifteen lakh rupees. Continuous contravention or non-compliance attract an additional penalty of ten thousand rupees every day during which such contravention continues.
  • The substituted section 43 provides that discharging polluting effluents and using a stream or well or sewer or land for disposal of polluting matter as prohibited under section 24 will now invite a penalty which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees, but which may extend to fifteen lakh rupees and where such contravention continues, an additional penalty of ten thousand rupees every day during which such contravention continues.
  • Section 44 now provides that any person who knowingly or wilfully alters or interferes with a measuring or monitoring device so as to prevent it from monitoring or measuring correctly shall be liable to pay penalty which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees, but which may extend to fifteen lakh rupees.”
  • Under amendments to Sections 41 to 45, the penal provisions have been simplified. While fiscal penalties have been made more stringent, the provision of imprisonment has been restricted to only grave offences. For non-compliances where fiscal penalties have been provided, the amount of penalty has been fixed as Rs. 10000 to Rs. 15 Lakhs with an additional penalty of Rs. 10000 per day for every additional day the contravention continues. Imprisonment is now provided for only noncompliance of provisions of consent under section 25/26 and not paying the penalty in the specified time.
  • Substituted section 45A provides for all other non-compliances of the Act where penalties have not been provided. Here, the penalty shall not be less than ten thousand rupees, but which may extend to fifteen lakh rupees, and where such contravention continues, an additional penalty which may extend to ten thousand rupees for every day during which such contravention continues.
  • The new section 45(B) provides for the appointment of adjudicating officers by the Central Government for the purposes of determining the penalties under the Act. Such Adjudicating Officers shall hold enquiries and impose penalty after giving due opportunity for hearing. This penalty shall be in addition to the liability to pay relief or compensation under section 15 and 17 of the NGT Act 2010.
  • Section 45(C) empowers the NGT to admit and decide upon appeals filed against orders passed by the adjudicating officers within 60 days of its receipt by an aggrieved person. Such appeals would only be entertained if the aggrieved has deposited with the Tribunal ten per cent. of the amount of the penalty imposed by the adjudicating officer.
  • As per the new section 45(D), the penalties imposed by the adjudicating officer are to be credited to the Environment Protection Fund created under the E. P. Act 1986.
  • Provisions for imprisonment are now provided under the amended section 45(E). Noncompliance of provisions of Section 25/26(Consent) of the Water Act 1974 will invite imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 18 months and which could extend to six years and with fine and in case the failure continues with an additional fine of Rs. 50000/- per day for each day of contravention after conviction of first such failure. In case the contravention continues beyond one year of the date of conviction, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a period of not less than two years and which may extend to seven years and with fine.

Failure to pay penalty/additional penalty levied under this Act within 90 days of imposition, will also make the offender liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to twice the amount of Penalty or additional penalty so imposed or with both.

Punitive provisions as above are also prescribed for offences by Companies under this clause.

  • The substituted section48(1) makes the Head of Department of any department of the Central or State Government liable to pay a penalty equal to one month of his basic salary or if the noncompliance is attributed to any Officer other than the Head of Department then the said officer liable to pay the penalty equal to one month of his basic salary.
  • Section 49(1)(a) allows the Courts to also take cognizance of a complaint under the Water Act if filed by the adjudicating officer or any officer authorised by him in this behalf.
  • The new provisions in Section 63 empower the Central Government to frame rules also for appointment of Chairmen of the Pollution Control Boards and the manner in which the adjudicating officer would hold enquiries and impose penalties.

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