Just like every coin having two sides to it, the industrial revolution proves to be a boon and a bane. On the one hand, the Industrial Revolution has significantly improved people’s lives in the twenty-first century. However, the industrial revolution has sadly resulted in industrial pollution. Technology has also advanced on an incremental rate, and the manufactured goods have largely substituted the obsolete ones. The by-products are a necessary component of manufacturing and it is the need of the hour that the industrialists take up measures to solve the hazards and threats that these industries cause to our environment. Two principles have been implemented in order to tackle this issue. The “polluter pays principle” and the “precautionary principle” are two important constitutional duties to stop environmental degradation. 




The “polluter pays” principle effectively holds the polluter responsible for the environmental pollution that they cause. According to this principle, every environmental harm must be attributed to the polluter. According to the “polluter pay principle,” the polluter must pay for the rehabilitation of any environmental damage in addition to compensating the victims of pollution. 


According to the OECD Recommendation(1)(2) of 1972 and 1974, public authorities decided on what steps the polluter should take to manage the pollution so that the environment is in a sustainable condition after such an industry has operated. As a result, both the expense of environmental restoration and the cost of health risks to the general public are to be borne by the polluter. 




The Polluter Pays Principle was most aptly introduced In the 1996 case of Indian Council of Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India. In this case, Justice Dalveer Bhandari found that the industrial process is integral to correcting the ecological imbalance that it has wrought. Therefore, the industry that generated the pollution should bear the financial burden of taking preventative and controlling measures for the pollution that was caused. It is not possible to shift the financial responsibility for avoiding or repairing the dent on the government. Since if the government were to pay for the damages it would ultimately be sought from the citizens themselves for a damage that they’re not guilty of. After the court dismissed the writ petition, the review petition, and the curative petition, numerous interlocutory and interim applications were made in this matter.

The judge, in this case, Justice Dalveer Bhandari considered that it is easier for men with power and authority to disobey or non-comply with the judicial pronouncements.

According to the judges’ findings in the cases of Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India and Ors. and Research Foundation For Science Technology National Resource Policy v. Union of India and Anr, respectively, environmental laws in India are fundamentally based on ethical principles like the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle. The “polluter pays principle” was previously regarded as a component of the accepted norms of international environmental law. Therefore, the judges believe that the concepts should be incorporated into Indian environmental regulations.

The justices in the case A.P. Pollution Control Board v. Prof. M.V. Nayudu (Retd.) and Ors. expanded the parameters of how the theory was put into practise. When cases are filed with tribunals or other environmental organizations, the judges have made it possible for those institutions to adopt these principles.


Every Indian citizen’s fundamental right is emphasized through various Articles of the Indian Constitution. The right to life and personal liberty is the fundamental freedom listed in Article 21. Simply put, denying a locality’s residents their basic rights would include contaminating the area around them. Every citizen has a responsibility to participate in the community in order to protect the environment because pollution is an inevitable byproduct of industrialization. Therefore, it is thought that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution naturally follows that the right to community participation in environmental protection. 

According to Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, while passing any order, award, or decision for balanced development without damaging Mother Earth, the tribunal may apply the concepts of sustainable development, the polluter pays principles, and precautionary principle.




A group of environmentalists raised awareness about the plight of the people living in the Rajasthani village of Bichhri, which is located in the Udaipur district. In the village of Bichhri, there was an industrial complex that made chemicals principally. The villagers’ lives were made uncomfortable by the release of concentrated sulfuric acid and aluminum sulfate from one firm, namely,  Hindustan Agro Chemical Limited. Due to their refractory character, the factory’s effluents were exceedingly challenging to handle.

Many of the pollutants filtered into the soil, contaminating the aquifers and groundwater below. Even the existing crop was ruined by the filthy water. The effluents percolated the groundwater making the nearby available water all unfit for consumption and irrigation purposes.  As a result, it was decided that anyone who engages in an activity that involves the use of a chemical that is inherently dangerous is responsible for any harm done to people or the environment. By holding the polluter financially liable for all costs associated with restoring the environment to its pre-pollution state, the polluter pays principle was put into practise.


The inhabitants of Tamil Nadu protested that untreated effluents from tanneries and other industries were dumped into waterways in the case Vellore inhabitants Welfare Forum vs. Union of India & Ors. Each day, the tanneries produced roughly 200 tonnes of leather; the production process requires 40 liters of water for every kilogram, and each liter of water contains 176 different types of hazardous acids. Potable water was contaminated as a result of the effluents’ poisonous character. The river water flowed onto the adjacent areas as a result of rain and flooding in the surrounding town.

The adjacent fields were primarily used for agriculture and farming. The effluents caused the agricultural area to become poisoned as a result. The water became unfit for consumption or any daily purposes. Consequently, in this case, the industrialists were made to pay for the damages that they caused. 


The “polluter pays principle” was reaffirmed by the Supreme court in this landmark case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Others,in which the Court emphasized on the absolute necessity of applying the principle. In this case, there was cause for alarm regarding the Taj Mahal’s deterioration and fading. The Taj Mahal being a monument of significant national importance, the upkeep of it is a matter of public importance. The National Environment Engineering Report Institute and Varadarajan Committee’s reports from 1990 and 1995, respectively, stated that the Taj Mahal was mostly harmed by foundries, the chemical industry, and Mathura refineries which were located in a specified zone known as the Taj Trapezium Zone.

The court mandated that the industries either transition to petrol from gasoline or find a new place to operate. Industries that disobeyed directives were ordered to be shut down without any justification. The “polluter pays principle” gained a new meaning thanks to Justice Kuldeep Singh in this landmark case. According to him, industries’ employees should suffer as a result of closure or relocation. The workers should have received compensation in the form of housing, continued employment until the industry was revived, etc. Since then, the courts have emphasized numerous times that the rights and obligations of the workers cannot be violated. This event marked a turning point in the administration of environmental law.


This case is also called the Oleum case because of the nature of the effluents released from the industry. The Court ruled that an enterprise engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry, which could endanger the health and safety of those working in the factory and those residing in the surrounding areas, owes a duty to the community that is absolute and non-delegable to ensure that no one suffers harm as a result of the hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the activity that it has undertaken.

Regardless of any reasonable care exercised on his behalf, the enterprise is unquestionably obligated to make up for this harm. The amount of compensation payable for harm caused by an accident in the conduct of the hazardous or the environmentally dangerous activity that was formerly conducted by the industry. 


It is important to note that one must not draw a conclusion that the Polluter Pays Principle is  a license for businesses to pollute. Industries cannot be started with hazardous goals by knowing you can pay it off with money later on. Instead, it is a strategy to halt environmental deterioration. It is vital to save the environment and avoid destroying Mother Nature in the name of progress. There must be economic progress but not at the cost of the environment and vice versa. It is essential for laws to be introduced by encasing such a tenet. Without endangering our environment, we must work towards sustainable development.

The National Green Tribunal must work eminently to instill terror in the hearts of the industries, and anyone found guilty of environmental pollution must face swift punishment. It is important to take the necessary actions to guarantee that those who have been wronged receive adequate restitution. Last but not least, we must view the Polluter Pay Principle as a policy that would assist us to protect our environment rather than a principle that only deals with compensation.



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