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Criminal law and environment protection in India

Updated: May 23, 2020

The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides a much speedier and summary remedy against public nuisance, in comparison to the Air, Water and Environment Acts which provide cumbersome procedure for prosecution.

The provisions of Cr. P.C. remained unused for a long time for removing public nuisance, but, of late, the Supreme Court revitalized them. The public duty of the Magistrate to come to the rescue of citizens in such cases was emphasized.

According to Sec. 268 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, a person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, damage or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to person who may have occasion to Use any public right. A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage.

A public nuisance thus is an unreasonable interference with a general right of the public. It is to be noted that a private dispute e.g. dispute between two neighbours only, is actionable in tort. Persons who pollute the environment by domestic, urban or industrial wastes, or cause loud and continuous noises which affect the health and comfort of those dwelling the neighborhood (e.g. an instrument, device or installation like a plant in a factory or a shop) are liable to prosecution for causing a public nuisance.