Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act (1981) of India



It is a comprehensive legislation with more than fifty sections. It makes provisions, interalia, for Central and State Boards, power to declare pollution control areas, restrictions on certain industrial units, authority of the Boards to limit emission of air pollutants, power of entry, inspection, taking samples and analysis, penalties, offences by companies and Government and cognizance of offences etc.

The Act specifically empowers State Government to designate air pollution areas and to prescribe the type of fuel to be used in these designated areas. According to this Act, no person can operate certain types of industries including the asbestos, cement, fertilizer and petroleum industries without consent of the State Board. The Board can predicate its consent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. The Air Act apparently adopts an industry wide “best available technology” requirement. As in the Water Act, courts may hear complaints under the Act only at the instigation of, or with the sanction of, the State Board.

The Government passed this Act in 1981 to clean up our air by controlling pollution. It states that sources of air pollution such as industry, vehicles, power plants, etc., are not permitted to release particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other toxic substances beyond a prescribed level.

To ensure this, Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) have been set up by Government to measure pollution levels in the atmosphere and at certain sources by testing the air. This is measured in parts per million or in milligrams or micrograms per cubic meter.

The main objectives of this act are as follows :


  • To provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • To provide for the establishment of central and State Boards with a view to implement the Act.
  • To confer on the Boards the powers to implement the provisions of the Act and assign to the Boards functions relating to pollution.


Air pollution is more acute in heavily industrialized and urbanized areas, which are also densely populated. The presence of pollution beyond certain Limits due to various pollutants discharged through industrial emission is monitored by the PCBs set up in every state



Powers and Functions of the Boards:


Central Pollution Board:


The main function of the Central Board is to implement legislation created to improve the quality of air and to prevent and control air pollution in the country. The-Board advises the Central Government on matters concerning the improvement of air quality and also coordinates activities, provides technical assistance and guidance to State Boards and lays down standards for the quality of air. It collects and disseminates information in respect of matters relating to air pollution and performs functions as prescribed in the Act.


State Pollution Control Boards:


The State Boards have the power to advise the State Government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of air pollution. They have the right to inspect at all reasonable times any control equipment, industrial plant, or manufacturing process and give orders to take the necessary steps to control pollution.

They are expected to inspect air pollution control areas at intervals or whenever necessary. They are empowered to provide standards for emissions to be laid down for different industrial plants with regard to quantity and composition of emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere.

A State Board may establish or recognize a laboratory to perform this function. The State Governments have been given powers to declare air pollution control areas after consulting with the State Board and also give instructions to ensure standards of emission from automobiles and restriction on use of certain industrial plants.




The persons managing industry are to be penalized if they produce emissions of air pollutants in excess of the standards laid down by the State Board. The Board also makes applications to the court for restraining persons causing air pollution. Whoever contravenes any of the provision of the Act or any order or direction issued is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with a fine of ₹ 10,000 or with both, and in case of continuing offence with an additional fine which may extend to ₹ 5,000 for every day during which such contravention continues after conviction for the first contravention.


Wildlife Protection Act, 1972


This Act provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security. Among other things, the Act lays down restrictions on hunting many animal species. The Act was last amended in the year 2006. An Amendment bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2013 and referred to a Standing Committee, but it was withdrawn in 2015.


Constitutional Provisions for the Wildlife Act


  • Article 48A of the Constitution of India directs the State to protect and improve the environment and the safeguard wildlife and forests. This article was added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976.
  • Article 51A imposes certain fundamental duties for the people of India. One of them is to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.


Salient Features of Wildlife Protection Act

This Act provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.

  • The Act provides for the formation of wildlife advisory boards, wildlife wardens, specifies their powers and duties, etc.
  • It helped India become a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • CITES is a multilateral treaty with the objective of protecting endangered animals and plants.
  • It is also known as the Washington Convention and was adopted as a result of a meeting of IUCN members.
  • For the first time, a comprehensive list of the endangered wildlife of the country was prepared.
  • The Act prohibited the hunting of endangered species.
  • Scheduled animals are prohibited from being traded as per the Act’s provisions.
  • The Act provides for licenses for the sale, transfer and possession of some wildlife species.
  • It provides for the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, etc.



Polluters pays principle


The ‘polluters pays’ principle is the commonly accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. For instance, a factory that produces a potentially poisonous substance as a by-product of its activities is usually held responsible for its safe disposal.

This principle underpins most of the regulation of pollution affecting land, water and air. Pollution is defined in UK law as contamination of the land, water or air by harmful or potentially harmful substances. Part of a set of broader principles to guide sustainable development worldwide (formally known as the 1992 Rio Declaration), the polluter pays principle has also been applied more specifically to emissions of greenhouse gases which cause climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions are considered a form of pollution because they cause potential harm and damage through impacts on the climate. However, in this case, because society has been slow to recognise the link between greenhouse gases and climate change, and because the atmosphere is considered by some to be a ‘global commons’ (that everyone shares and has a right to use), emitters are generally not held responsible for controlling this form of pollution.

However, it is possible to implement the ‘polluter pays’ principle through a so-called carbon price. As we’ll discuss in future questions in this series, this imposes a charge on the emission of greenhouse gases equivalent to the corresponding potential cost caused through future climate change. In this way, a financial incentive is created for a factory, for instance, to minimise its costs by reducing emissions.

Many economists argue a carbon price should be global and uniform across country and sectors so that polluters do not simply move operations to so-called ‘pollution havens’ – countries where a lack of environmental regulation allows them to continue to pollute without restrictions.

Doctrine of public trust


The doctrine of public trust is the principle that the sovereign holds in trust for public use some resources such as shoreline between the high and low tide lines, regardless of private property ownership

The doctrine of public trust has evolved over the years to emerge as one of the core principles for the judiciary to substantiate the legitimacy of governmental action that interferes with the use by the general public of natural resources. The incorporation of this doctrine into our legal system has resulted in the imposition of a much required check upon governmental authorities who seek to divest State control over such natural resources in favour of private parties. Though the origin of the doctrine can be traced to ancient times and it is of considerable vintage in the United States, its application in the Indian legal system is a modern development.

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