Delhi HC extends public response deadline to draft EIA 2020

Environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad in his petition sought extension of the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification due to the coronavirus pandemic

June 30, 2020 12:59 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 12:15 pm IST - New Delhi:

A view of the Delhi High Court. File.

A view of the Delhi High Court. File.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday extended till August 11, 2020 the time granted to public for giving opinion on the controversial 2020 draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification.

A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan also questioned the Centre over the publication of the notification in only two languages.

“Why only two languages (English and Hindi)... Will you be in (a) position to publish in other languages,” the Bench remarked during the hearing on a petition by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad who had sought extension of the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya, appearing for the Centre, said the draft EIA 2020 was published on April 11 and 60 days from then was to expire on June 11, but in view of the pandemic, it was decided to extend the period till June 30.

Responding to this, the Bench said, “What is the urgency in finalising this? The Centre’s response does not deal with the ambiguity at all... It is mentioned on the notification that the last date is June 30, this is an error apparent on the face of record”.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Mr. Tongad, urged the court for publication of the draft EIA in multiple languages. “Let every citizen of this country know what is happening to them. This is a fundamental rights issue. It affects tribals. It should be in multiple languages,” Mr. Sankaranarayanan stressed.

However, the ASG said it was “beyond practices” to publish such notification in all vernacular languages.

Mr. Tongad had stated in his petition that the May 8 notification extended the period for inviting objections by another 60 days, but it was not clear as to when the initial period of 60 days commenced.

“If the sixty-day period commences on the date of the draft notification, i.e., March 23, 2020, the extended date of expiry will be July 18, 2020. If the date of notification in the Gazette (i.e. April 11, 2020) is taken as the start of the sixty-day period, the extended date of expiry will be August 9, 2020,” the petition said.

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 said.

“Such a significant set of changes is bound to affect the public and members of communities in virtually all aspects of life, and they have a right to meaningfully respond to the same,” the plea said.

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