Polluter Pays Principle

This article is written by Miss Meghna Saxena, currently, she is a 4th year B.COM L.L.B student from Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal Madhya Pradesh


The industrial revolution has both pros and cons. It has led to advancement in the lives of people and on the other hand, it resulted in massive industrial pollution. The untreated effluent waste of the industries causes huge damage to the environment and it also affects the health of the people. Therefore to keep a watch on these things polluter pay principle or precautionary principle are introduced to check the debasement of the climate. 

Polluter pay principle means an individual who pollutes the environment has the liability to make up for the harm caused and return the climate to its original state paying little heed to try purpose. According to this principle, it imposes a burden on a person who contaminates the climate to compensate for the damage caused by him and restore the ecology of the area . this principle is a core principle to guide sustainable development worldwide. These standards are typically executed in two ways either through an order and control approach or through market based approach. Almost 175 countries across the globe adopted as an administration component and joined inside numerous global ecological instruments. 

Concept of Polluter Pays Principle

The polluter pay principle forces the polluter who affects land, air, and water to compensate for the damages done. Only the polluter I am liable to pay the fine imposed by the government. It is otherwise called the standard of expanded maker obligation. The fundamental capacity of the standard is it helps in apportioning the expenses and fixing the harm, between various partners, for the damage brought about by them to the environment. This concept was first introduced in the year 1972 by OECD. Organization of Economic Corporation and Development[OECD] in its report stated that polluter is for controlling and anticipation of contamination related with the course of an industrial facility. The report also stated that the endeavor would be urged to put resources into taking preventive, helpful, and compensatory measures. The polluter pays principle has also been applied more specifically to emissions of greenhouse gases which cause climate change and this principle is implemented on the carbon price. Greenhouse gases have a close link with the climate change so some economists suggest that ‘carbon costs’ should be uniform worldwide so that the polluters do not simply move operations to so-called 'pollution havens', where an absence of natural guidelines permits them to keep on polluting without limitations.

In India, this principle was first used in the case of “Indian council of enviro- legal action vs Union of India” in 1996. The court, in this case, stated that “reversing the imbalance caused to the ecology is the part and parcel of the industrial process”. The monetary obligation of taking counteraction and controlling measures for the contamination caused should settle upon the business which caused contamination. The monetary related weight cant be moved to the shoulders of the public authority neither in forestalling nor in amending the imprint. Justice Dalveer Bhandari considered that “it is easy for men with power and authority to disobey or non comply with the judicial pronouncements”.

Rio Declaration in 1992, made certain principles regarding this principle. According to Principle 16 of this declaration, it says “National Authorities should attempt to advance the internationalization of ecological expenses and utilization of financial instruments, thinking about that the polluter ought to, bear the expenses of contamination, with due respect to the public premium and without intruding on global exchange and speculation”.

According to Section 20 of the national green tribunal act, the tribunal can apply for the standards of supportable turn of events, the polluter pays standards and prudent guidelines while passing any request, grant, or choice for adjusted advancement without hurting mother earth.

Examples:- A production line that creates a conceivably noxious substance as a side-effect of its exercises is generally considered liable for its protected removal.

Pitfall of Polluter Pays Principle

The polluter pay principle has some disadvantages which are:-

  1. It’s hard to accurately gauge emanations as a firm will attempt to shroud the genuine sum. It is hard to both choose the fitting degree of adequate contamination and the technique to address it.

  2. Some techniques for amendment are not as powerful as others. As in the installment technique, the administration pays firms to reduce the pollution but it doesn’t motivate them to make their interaction less destructive.

  3. It’s difficult to get an enormous number of nations to endless supply’s of passable contamination as each nation has distinctive kinds of businesses and financial conditions.

Landmark Judgement

There are various landmark judgments on the polluter pays principle which are:- 

  • The Oleum Gas Leak case (M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India) AIR 1987 SC 1086

The Court set out that an endeavor occupied with an unsafe or intrinsically perilous industry which represents a likely danger to the wellbeing and security of people working in the production line and to those living in the encompassing regions owes an outright and non-delegable obligation to the local area to guarantee that no mischief results to anyone by virtue of risky or innately hazardous nature of the action which it has attempted. The undertaking is totally obligated to make up for such mischief and regardless of all sensible consideration considered. The bigger and more prosperous the venture, more noteworthy should be the measure of the pay payable for the damage caused by virtue of a mishap in the carrying on of the perilous or innately risky action by the undertaking.

  • Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum vs. Union of India 1996(5) SCC 647

The Court deciphered the significance of the Polluter Pays Principle as the supreme risk for damage to the climate stretches out not exclusively to remunerate the survivors of the contamination yet, in addition, the expense of reestablishing the natural corruption. Remediation of the harmed climate is essential for the course of 'Supportable Development' and as such the polluter is at risk to pay the expense for the individual victims just as the expense of turning around the harmed nature."

  • M. C. Mehta vs Kamal Nath & Ors (1997)1SCC388

The Court held that pollution is a typical wrong and is an offense submitted against the neighborhood taking all things together. Thusly, any person at a genuine deficiency for causing tainting necessities to pay hurts for recovery of the environment and climate. Under the Polluter Pays Principle, it isn’t the work of the Government to meet the costs drew in with either aversion of such damage, or in finishing restorative action, because the effect of this is shift the money related load of the defilement event to the resident.


According to this principle, the measure of remuneration to be charged for the rebuilding of the harm caused to the climate stays to be deficient in contrast with the misfortune really caused. In India, this principle is applied but not in its strict sense. So, the guideline needs a severe translation from our legal executive with prompt impact and we can't manage the cost of any kind of deferral in its legitimate execution in our country. It takes more effort in complying people to the principle rather than mandating it.  This principle should be in the mind of every citizen that due to our reasons , mother earth should not suffer . Balanced development is a prerequisite for harmony between nature and us. These steps should be habits of the millennials.


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