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Flouting rules may invite prison term

delhi Updated: Aug 26, 2010 23:25 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The government might soon change the Environment Protection Act (EPA) to make "non-compliance" of environment conditions a non-bailable offence, with penalty proportionate to the offence.

This comes after Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh's decision to reject the clearance for bauxite mining for Vedanta Resources' aluminium refinery in Lanjigarh and issued a showcause notice for violating environment clearance conditions by getting bauxite from 11 illegal mines in Jharkhand.

Under the existing provisions of the EPA, the ministry can cancel the environment clearance and impose a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh and a jail term of up to five years for not complying with the environment clearance conditions.

However, the penalty is rarely imposed as the process involved is so cumbersome and time-consuming that it makes the law neither a deterrent or punitive enough, a committee headed by the ministry's additional secretary J M Mauskar said in its report to Ramesh.

A ministry committee has recommended that the quantum of penalty for non-compliance of the environment clearance conditions could be made sufficiently high and there may not be any ceiling on the quantum of penalty for serious offences.

According to ministry officials, the committee wants the penalty to be proportionate to the violation of the clearance condition.

"The bigger the violation, the higher should be the penalty," an official said.

"The serious offences may be cognisable by police and non-bailable," the committee has recommended.

The committee has also asked the ministry to change the law to make imposing penalty a swifter and prompt exercise.

Goa has used satellite imagery for effective implementation of coastal regulations and the committee wants similar mechanism for polluting monitoring and encroachments.

The committee also said that clearance should be classified into four levels for effective monitoring.