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The Polluter Pays Principle in Effect at the National Green Tribunal in India

Author: Mrinalini Shinde

Abstract: India has witnessed several infamous cases of industrial pollution on a massive scale, the most tragic being the Bhopal Gas Disaster in 1984, which led to thousands of deaths and several hundred thousand injuries for over thirty years. However, the significant progress over the past few decades in the expansion and enforcement of domestic environmental law has gradually broken the perception that India could be used as a pollution haven by multinational companies. The ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘PPP’) under Principle 16 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992 (Rio Declaration), has recently begun to occupy significant standing in domestic environmental disputes. The principle essentially implies that polluters must bear the costs of restoring the environment of that pollution. In India, the Supreme Court has used the PPP in several landmark environmental decisions; in 2010, the National Green Tribunal Act (NGT Act), codified the application of the PPP by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) when deciding civil cases involving a substantial question of the environment.

In this article, the author will gauge the exact purpose of the PPP in its application in the NGT in India; the forum created to adjudicate legal disputes with substantial question of the environment. The author seeks to examine whether the PPP creates economic repercussions for polluters and acts as a deterrent, and compensates those harmed by environmental damage, and is able to generate the amount necessary to restore the environment to its previous state. The PPP is now used far too often as a compensatory tool as opposed to other motivations and the author seeks to discuss both the benefits and limitations of this approach. Benefits include that victims of pollution are assured some monetary relief in harsh circumstances while the limitation includes reduced penalties upon polluters if there is a lack of direct victimization. 

Journal: The Journal of Health, Environment, & Education

Volume: 9

Pages: 10-18 

Link to the article