The Delhi High Court on Friday has asked for the Centre’s clarification as to what would be the last date for giving objections and suggestions with regard to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification which has proposed post facto approvals for projects.
A division-bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the Environment Ministry while hearing a plea seeking directions for extension of the period for receiving objections with regard to its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, which while proposing post facto approvals, does away with public consultations in some instances, till the COVID-19 lockdown continues.
The Court has asked the Ministry if there was any ambiguity in the notification issued by government on May 8, that extended the period of receiving objections and suggestions in term of the EIA 2020. The court has also asked the Centre to take an approach that is fair to everyone and in case there is any ambiguity, to come up with a resolution.
The petition filed before the Court claimed that the notification has extended the period of inviting objections by another 60 days, but has not stated clearly as to when that period of 60 days commences.
According to the petition filed by Vikrant Tongad, an environmental conservationist, if the 60-day period would commence on date of the draft notification which is March 23rd, the date would be extended till July 18, 2020. However, if the date of notification in the Gazette, April 11, is taken as the commencement date, then the period will be extended till August 9, 2020.
The petitioner has stated that specification of June 30 as an end date in the notification is unclear and contradictory since its less than sixty days from May 8, which was the date of issuance of the extension notification.
According to the plea, the draft notification has proposed the removal of public consultation entirely in some cases has allowed post facto approval for projects and has reduced the time for public consultation from 45 days to 40 days.
The petition, stating that the EIA 2020 completely supersedes and replaces the environmental norms, has prayed for the extension of the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification till September 30 or till such time the lockdown continues.
It has also prayed for the translated copies of the draft EIA to be made available in the official vernacular languages across the country and be uploaded on all websites.
-India Legal Bureau