Almost half the crimes took place in Tamil Nadu
The number of environmental offences committed in India increased from 4,732 in 2016 to 42,143 in 2017, an increase of 790 per cent, according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)’s Crime Statistics Report for 2017, released on October 21, 2019.
Almost half of these offences — 20, 914, amounting to 49.6 per cent of all the offences — took place in Tamil Nadu. The state was followed by Rajasthan (24 per cent) and Kerala (16 per cent).
Among Union Territories, the highest number of environment-related offences were recorded in Puducherry.
Interestingly, only one and 17 environment-related offences took place respectively in Tamil Nadu in 2016 and 2015.
The hike in the number of offences has been due to the addition of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, to the list of environment offences. The act wasn’t included in the environment related offences data in the NCRB crime statics of previous years.
The act has singlehandedly added 30 per cent more offences to the total. The highest number of offences occurred under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (29,659), followed by the Noise Pollution Acts (State/ Central) (8,423) and the Indian Forest Act, 1927/Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (3,016).
Of the total number of offences, in 40,720 cases the accused were arrested, in 41,621 cases chargesheets were filed and 6,245 cases are pending investigation. In terms of pending cases, Manipur has the highest rate, with six cases reported in 2015-16 and all of them pending. Of the total number of environment-related offences in 2017, 21,968 were convicted.
Moreover, while 37,953 cases were sent for trial in 2017, a total of 38,920 cases were pending trial from the previous years, taking the total number of pending environmental criminal cases in the courts to 76,873.
The NCRB crime statistics for the year 2017 was released after a delay of over a year.
“There are fundamental problems in the manner environmental crime is framed in India. The methodology section doesn't mention the tools used to collect environmental crime data,” Geetanjoy Sahu, associate professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, said.
“The reason for adding the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 in the list of environment-related offences is not clear. Moreover, while the seven out of the top 20 most polluted cities are in India, the cases registered under the IFA/FCA are more,” he added.
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