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Plea in Delhi HC seeks more time for public comments on draft EIA notification

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New Delhi: The High Court of Delhi today issued notice to the Central Government on an application seeking extension of time for public comments on new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) draft notification.

The bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan was hearing an application filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, seeking to extend the time for public comments on the draft EIA Notification 2020, by a period of 60 days from the date of uploading the translated versions of the draft notification in all the languages mentioned in Schedule VIII in the websites of the respective State Pollution Control Boards as directed by the High Court in the Judgment of June 30.

The applicant has submitted that the non-compliance with the directions and the timelines set down by the Court has hampered the public consultation process. As the deadline for receiving public comments lapsed on August 11, an anomalous situation has been created throughout the country wherein speakers of vernacular languages will not be allowed to respond to the draft Notification, while English and Hindi speakers have got a total time of 120 days to respond to the draft notification.

It was further submitted:

“This anomalous situation has arbitrariness writ large over it, and negates the very letter and spirit of the order of this Hon’ble Court dated 30.6.2020. The act of translation, after the expiry of the deadline for comments, becomes a mere formality, defeating the purpose of the judgment of 30.6.2020.”

Further, the petitioner submitted that less than 50 percent of the populace is able to read English and Hindi. In such a scenario, it would be wholly unfair to those of other linguistic orientations to be deprived the opportunity to understand the application of an Environmental regime that will have far-reaching consequences.

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The petitioner has also sought for a direction to MOEF to upload and prominently display the translated versions of the draft EIA, 2020 on the home page of the main website of the Respondent, i.e., http://moef.gov.in/.

The bench has sought response from the Centre and has listed the matter for next hearing on September 23.

-India Legal Bureau    

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