New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed the Delhi High Court’s contempt of court proceedings initiated against the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) for failing to publish the draft EIA notification in multiple regional languages.
The Solicitor General of India, Mr Tushar Mehta seeks permission to withdraw the special leave petition with liberty to file review petition before the High Court.
The Court granted the permission. “Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the aforesaid liberty,” said the Court.
“Needless to state that in case the petitioner fails before the High Court, it is permitted to approach this Court once again challenging the main order as well as the order passed in the review petition. The contempt petition shall remain stayed till the disposal of the review petition,” said the Court led by the Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, Justice A. S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian.
The draft EIA notification 2020 has several substantive new features and supersedes the EIA Notification 2006.
“This draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing regime, including removing public consultation entirely in certain instances, reducing the time for public consultation from 45 days to 40 days, and allowing post facto approvals for projects,” the petition filed before the Delhi HC read.
The High Court had directed the Central Government to publish the draft Enviornment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020, in all 22 official languages.
SG Tushar Mehta submitted: “Rules are there regarding what languages are to be used. Rules say publication only in Hindi and English. The High Court order goes outside the official languages rules.”
The bench thereafter said that Mehta was correct as far as the general clauses act is concerned, but questioned him as to why the same was never brought to the notice of the high court. “You don’t raise issues before the high court but then you file SLP in this court,” the bench said.
The bench, considering the high court order, said that the spirit in which the order is passed is correct. “There could be people in areas like Karnataka or rural Maharashtra or Nagaland where people don’t know Hindi or English.”
SG Mehta replying to the bench said “the rules say publication is only in Hindi and English. Responses can be in any language.”
The bench, however, said that the government could consider amendment of the official languages act. “These days translation is the easiest thing on earth. We translate judgments, parliament has instant translation software. It’s time for you to update your act,” the bench added.
Read the order;15849_2020_31_10_23390_Order_13-Aug-2020
-India Legal Bureau