Tort law in environmental regulations
Actions brought under tort law are amongst the oldest of the legal remedies to abate pollution. Most pollution cases in tort law fall under the categories of nuisance, negligence or strict liability.1 The rules of Tort law in India were introduced under British rule. Initially, disputes arising within the presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were subjected to common law rules.2 Later, Indian courts outside the presidency were required by Acts of the British Parliament and Indian Laws to reconcile disputes in accordance to justice, equity and good conscience where there was no applicable statute3. Consequently, in suits for damages for torts (civil wrongs), courts followed the English Common Law in so far as it was consonant with these principles4. In Vellore Citizens Forum v. Union of India,5 the Supreme Court traced the source of the constitutional and statutory provisions that protect the environment to the ‘inalienable common law right’ of every person to a clean environment. Quoting from Blackstone’s Commentaries on the English la of nuisance published in 1876’ the court held that since the Indian legal system was founded on English common law, the right to a pollution-free environment was a part of the basic jurisprudence of the land.6 Damages and injunction
A plaintiff in a tort action may sue for damages or an injunction, or both. The damages so awarded for are pecuniary compensations payable for the commission of a tort. They may be ‘substantial’ as well as ‘exemplary.’ Substantial damages are provided to compensate the plaintiff for the wrong suffered. The purpose behind such damages is restitution i.e.to restore the plaintiff to the position he or she would have been had the tort not been committed. Such damages, therefore, correspond to fair and reasonable compensation for the injury. Exemplary damages, on the other hand, are intended to punish the defendant for the outrageous nature of his or her conduct, as for instance, when he or she persists, in causing a nuisance despite being charged for it.7 The court observed that in such cases, compensation ‘must be correlated to the magnitude and capacity of the enterprise because such compensation must have a deterrent effect. The larger and more prosperous the enterprise, the greater must be the amount of compensation payable by it.. .’8 An injunction, on the other hand, is a judicial process where a person who has infringed or is about to infringe the rights of another, is restrained from pursuing such acts. An injunction may take a positive or a negative form and may be granted at any interlocutory application9. Injunctions may be granted where it is proved that: 1. any property in dispute in a suit is in danger of being wasted, damaged, or wrongfully sold in the execution of a decree, or 2. the defendant threatens, or intends to remove or dispose of his property with a view to defraud his creditors, or 3. that the defendant threatens to dispossess the plaintiff or otherwise cause injury to the plaintiff in relation to any property in dispute in the suit …’10 Nuisance
Nuisance, along with negligence is an area of law of torts which covers cases of environmental pollution. It is defined to be anything done to the hurt, or annoyance of the land tenements or hereditaments of another and not amounting to trespass.11 Thus ringing of a bell,12 causing annoyance by smoke and noise,13 dust and vibration from quarry,14 making cesspool, the filth of which percolates through the soil and contaminates water,15 pollution of land and water,16 have all been considered under nuisance and appropriate remedies were provided. Important areas covered under nuisance are, air pollution, water pollution, unwanted noise, obstruction of path by filth, garbage, etc. in order to prevent people from air and water pollution more effectively, the Air (prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (prevention and control of...
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