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Water Act: Minor Offences Decriminalised

Several minor offences under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, have been decriminalised, through amendments, to “further enhance trust-based governance for ease of living and doing business”.

The Amendment Act was notified on February 15, 2024, upon receipt of presidential assent. Some of the key features of the Amendment Act are as follows: –

  • Applicability

    The Amendment Act applies to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, the Union Territories, and the states that adopt it.
  • Decriminalisation of minor offences

    A number of minor offences have been decriminalised. For instance, violation of Section 24 of the Act, which pertains to the use of streams for disposing of polluting matter, will now attract a penalty of Rs.10,000, extendable up to Rs. 15 Lakh. Earlier, punishment in the form of imprisonment was applicable for such contraventions.
  • Adjudicating mechanism

    For determining the penalty for contravention of the Act’s provisions, an adjudicating officer would be appointed by the central government. An appeal against the decision of the adjudicating officer can be filed before the National Green Tribunal.
  • Offences by trusts

    Even trusts are covered under the Amendment Act. In case an offence mentioned in Sections 45E(1) to (3), is committed by a company, the company along with the person in charge would be subject to punishment. For this purpose, trusts and societies also have been covered under companies, apart from body corporates, firms, and other associations of individuals. The above-mentioned Sections contain provisions imposing punishment in the form of imprisonment for the discharge of sewage into streams, etc.
  • Role of central government

    The Central Government, in consultation with the Central Board, is empowered to exempt certain categories of industrial plants from the requirement of obtaining the State Board’s consent before establishing an industry that is likely to discharge sewage into streams or undertaking such other activities as listed in Section 25(1). Additionally, Section 27A has been introduced, which requires State Boards to comply with the guidelines as may be issued by the Central Government with respect to grant, refusal, or cancellation of consent by the Boards.