Courts need to double pace to dispose of all environmental crime cases in a year: Report

NEW DELHI, 25 Mar: While courts in India disposed of 130 environmental crime cases a day in 2021, they need to nearly double the speed to be able to clear the backlog in a year, a new report by the Centre for Science and Environment said.

Courts disposed of 47,316 cases (around 130 cases a day) in 2021, but 89,305 cases were still pending at the end of the year. To clear the backlog in a year, they need to dispose of 245 cases a day, according to the ‘State of India’s Environment Report’ released on Thursday.

The report said that there has been a 4 percent increase in the number of environmental crimes in the country between 2020 and 2021 but courts are disposing of cases at a rate much lower than required, “leading to pile-ups and delays.”

The think tank said that India logged 64,471 environment-related crimes in 2021. A total of 59,220 went to trial, taking the total number of undertrial cases to 1,36,621 (including 77,401 cases pending from 2020).

The report said that around 19,000 cases registered under the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927 and

the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 are pending and it will take courts 14 years and 11 months to dispose of them at the current rate.

Similarly, around 2,000 cases registered under the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986 are pending and it will take around 38 years and 9 months to clear them at the current rate, it said.

Around 3,750 cases registered under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 are pending and the time required to dispose of them at the current rate is around 12 years. The environment ministry has proposed to amend the EPA to decriminalise its existing provisions to “weed out fear of imprisonment for simple violations.”

Amendments have been proposed to decriminalise violations of the Air Act of 1981, and the Water Act of 1974.

It has proposed to amend the IFA to replace a jail term of six months with Rs 500 for illegal trespassing and tree-cutting in forests.

Experts and activists have opposed the ministry’s proposal to decriminalise these laws, arguing that no environmental violation can be considered “simple” as it immediately impacts the human body. (PTI)