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Delhi High Court junks plea seeking EIA notification in multiple languages

Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday turned down an application seeking the court’s direction to the government to publish the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification in multiple languages in compliance with its earlier order.

A division bench of the court presided by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan dismissed the said application saying that a “miscellaneous application cannot be filed in a matter which has already been disposed of.”

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The bench, however, granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the court again by way of a modification application.

The application filed by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, said that the respondent Union Environment Ministry has not published the translated versions of the draft EIA Notification 2020 in the Scheduled languages of the Constitution either on the websites of the environment ministries of the states or those of the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs).

Tongad through his application also told the bench that the respondent has not even sought an extension of time beyond the 10 days as directed by the High Court on June 30. He also sought court’s direction to the respondent to publish the draft notification (in English, Hindi and the relevant vernacular translation) on the said websites, with a view to giving wide publicity to the draft notification, and in compliance with the directions of the court dated June 30.

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On June 30, the High Court while partly allowing the petition filed by Tongad, extended till August 11, the time for giving suggestions and objections to the draft Environment Impact Assessment 2020 notification.

The bench extended the time after the Environment Ministry failed to address the query of the court regarding “ambiguity” in its decision of extending time till June 30 for giving objections and suggestions to its draft EIA 2020.

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Earlier, the High Court had observed that there is ambiguity in the notification concerned and had asked the central government how it will be resolved. In the last hearing, the court had issued notice to the Centre to file its response in the matter.

On March 23 this year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) published a draft notification on Environmental Impact Assessment and sought objections or suggestions from members of the public. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government extended the notice period until June 30 hoping that the lockdown would end, the plea said.

“However, even this time is woefully inadequate, since cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and there are still several restrictions on people’s movements and access to technology and resources. The extension notification itself is contradictory and unclear as to the exact duration of extension of notice period,” the plea said.

The petitioner also contended that postal services have been suspended in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, on account of which citizens cannot send their objections to the government.

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