Monday, January 30, 2023

Delhi HC issues notice on PIL saying experts appointed to committee on power, mining aren’t experts at all

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The Delhi High Court has issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation challenging the appointment of the Expert Appraisal Committee for Thermal Power and Coal Mining Projects alleging it to be illegal and against the statutory mandate.

A division bench comprising the Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan while hearing the plea through video conferencing on Wednesday issued notice and has sought responses.

The petition has been filed by Manoj Mishra seeking quashing of notification constituting the Expert Appraisal Committee for environmental appraisal of Thermal Power and Coal Mining Projects alleging it to be ultra-vires to the parent legislation, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the EIA Notification, 2006.

The petition stated that “…a total of 9 ‘nonofficials’ as members of the EAC and the rest 6 are officials. Thus, as per the Notification, no ‘expert’ has been appointed despite the mandatory requirement that the EAC should comprise of ‘Expert’.”

The petition filed through Advocate Srishti Agnihotri challenges appointment of Gururaj P. Kundargi, Chairperson, Santosh Hampanvar, Umesh Jagganath Kahalekar, Prashant Mohapatra on the ground that the said members do not meet the criteria laid down by the notification. Whereas, the plea further alleges that Kundargi and Mohapatra have serious conflicts of interest.

The PIL further contends that these appointments fly in the face of several precedents laid down by the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court on the appointment of experts to the EACs/ other expert environmental bodies.

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The bench has listed the matter for further hearing on January 22.

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