To implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, Parliament enacted the nationwide Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act under Article 253 of the Constitution of India. The Act’s statement of objects and reasons contained the governments’ explanation of the contents and the scope of the law and its concern for the detrimental effect (air pollution) on the health of the people as also on animal life, vegetation and property.
The Air Act’s framework is similar to the one created by its predecessor, the Water Act of 1974. To enable an integrated approach to environmental problems, the Air Act expanded the authority of the Central and State Boards established in the Water Act to include air pollution control. States which have not constituted the Water Pollution Boards were required to constitute Air Pollution Boards.
Under the Air Act, all industries operating within designated air pollution control areas must obtain consent (permit) from the State Boards.
Prior to its amendment in 1987, the Air Act was enforced through mild Court administered penalties on violators. The 1987 amendment strengthened the enforcement machinery and introduced stiffer penalties. Now, the Boards may close down a defaulting industrial plant or may stop its supply of electricity or water. A Board may also apply to a Court to restrain emissions that exceed prescribed standards. Notably the 1987 amendment introduced a citizen initiative provisions into the Air Act and extended the Act to include Noise Pollution.
Object of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981:
The object of the Act is stated in the Long Title of the Air Act,
An Act to provide for the prevention and control of air pollution for the establishment with a view to carrying out the aforesaid purposes, of Boards for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters connected there with.
Whereas decisions were taken at the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in Junen1972 in which India participated, to take appropriate steps for the preservation of the natural resources of the earth which amount other things include the preservation of quality of air and control of air pollution and whereas it is considered necessary to implement the decisions aforesaid in so far as they relate to the preservation of the quality of air and control of air pollution.
Section 2 of the Air Act deals with the definitions.
The important ones are as follows :
1. Air Pollutant: Section 2(a)
Air Pollutant means any solid, liquid and gaseous substance including noise present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment.
2. Air Pollution: Section 2(b)
Air Pollution means the presence in the atmosphere of any air pollutant.
3. Emission: Section 2(j)
Emission means any solid or liquid or gaseous substance coming out of any chimney, duct or flue or any other outlet.
4. Occupier: Section 2(m)
Occupier in relation to any factory or premises means the person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises and includes in relation to any substance the person in possession of the substance.
Constitution of the State Air Pollution Control Board:
Section 5 of the Air Act gives the constitution of the State Air Pollution Control Board.
In any State in which the Water Act , 1974 is not in force or that Act is in force but the State Government has not constituted a State Board under Water Act, the State Government shall with effect from such date as it may be, by notification in Official Gazette, appoint, constitute a State Board for the prevention and control of air pollution under such name as may be specified in the Notification, to exercise the powers conferred on and perform the functions assigned to that Board under this Act.
A State Board under this Act shall consist of the following members namely :
a. A Chairman, having a special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection, to be nominated by State Government. He may be whole time or part time as the State Government may think fit.
b. Such number of Officials, not exceeding five as the State Government may think fit, to be nominated by the State Government to represent that Government.
c. Such number of persons, not exceeding five as the State Government may think fit, to be nominated by the State Government from amongst the members of the local authorities functioning within the State.
d. Such number of persons, not exceeding three as the State Government may think fit, to be nominated by the State Government to represent interest of agriculture, fishery or industry or trade or labour or any other interest which in the opinion of that Government ought to be represented.
e. Two persons to represent the Companies or Corporations owned, controlled or managed by State Government to be nominated by that Government.
f. A full time Member Secretary having practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection and having administrative experience, to be appointed by the State Government.
State Government shall ensure that not less than two of the members are persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to the improvement of the quality of air or the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution.
A Board shall be :
1. Body Corporate with name by State Government
2. Perpetual Succession
3. Common Seal
4. Acquire and dispose of properties
6. Can Sue and be Sued.
Powers and Functions :
1. No person shall without the previous consent of the State Board, establish or operate any industrial plant in an Air Pollution Control Area.
2. State Board may make inquiry in respect of application for consent referred above.
3. State Board may grant or refuse the application referred above.
4. State Board shall have right to enter, at all reasonable times with such assistance as it considers necessary to any place.
5. State Board is empowered to call for any information from the occupier or any person carrying on any industry or operating any control equipment or industrial plant.
6. State Board shall have right to inspect the premises where industry, control equipment or industrial plant is being carried on or operated.
7. State Board has right to take, for the purposes of analysis, samples of air or emission from any chimney, flue or duct or any other outlet.
a. To plan a comprehensive programme for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and to secure the execution thereof.
b. To advise the State Government on any matter concerning the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution.
c. To collect and disseminate information relating to air pollution.
d. To collaborate with Central Board in organizing the training of persons engaged or to be engaged in programmes relating to prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and to organize mass education programme relating thereto.
e. To inspect, at all reasonable times, any control equipment, industrial plant or manufacturing and to give, by order, such directions to such persons as it may consider necessary to take steps for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution.
f. To inspect Air Pollution Control Areas at such intervals as it may think necessary, access the quality of air therein and take steps for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution in such areas.
g. To lay down, in consultation with the Central Board and having regard to the standards of the quality of air laid down by the Central Board, standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere from industrial plants and automobiles or for the discharge of any air pollutant into the atmosphere from any other source whatsoever not being a ship or an aircraft.
Provided that different standards for emission may be laid down under this clause for different industrial plants having regard to the quantity and composition of emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere form such industrial plants.
h. To advise State Government with respect to the suitability of any premises or location for carrying on any industry which is likely to cause air pollution.
i. To perform such other functions as may be prescribed or as may from time to time be entrusted to it by the Central Board or the State Government.
j. To do such other things and to perform such other acts as it may think necessary for the proper discharge of its functions and generally for the purpose of carrying into effect the purposes of the Act.
A State Board may establish or recognize a laboratories to enable the State Board to perform its functions under this Section efficiently.
As far as composition of the Board is concerned it is clear that an adequate representation of interests was not adhered to. In India the Environment Legislation regime is essentially backed up with a movement through the PIL regime as well as direct participation of people representation in the composition of the Board. This may in one way partly affect the very effective functioning of the Board.
When we look into some provisions which provide specific powers to the Board such as taking up sample and examination of emission standards are confined only to the Air Pollution Control Areas. This aspect may create a conflict at the time of enforcement of the provisions followed by the penal sanctions.
 Divan Shyam & Rosencray Armin, “Environmental Law and Policy in India”, ‘Cases, Materials and Statutes’, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, p60
 Section 5(1) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 5(2) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 5(3) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 21(1) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 21(3) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 21(4) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 24 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 25 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 26(1) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
 Section 17 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981