Delhi High Court said on Monday that there was “ambiguity” in the Centre’s decision to extend until June 30 to object and make suggestions to its draft impact assessment notification. environment (EIA) of 2020, calling it “unfair” to the public.
Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Judge Prateek Jalan said there was ambiguity in the May 8 notification from the Department of the Environment, extending the time for objections and suggestions to the EIA project 2020, because it mentions a new period of 60 days and also that the window closes on June 30.
The ministry, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya and permanent central government lawyer Anurag Ahluwalia, told the judiciary that the intention was to extend the period only until June 30.
The ASG stated that the draft EIA 2020 had been published on April 11 and that 60 days were due to expire on June 11, but in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided to extend the period until June 30th.
She also said that to date, more than 1,000 suggestions have been received.
Subsequently, the bench suggested that the department could continue to process the suggestions, while keeping the window open for a while to receive more.
The ASG has stated that it will accept the ministry’s instructions regarding the court’s suggestion.
Subsequently, the court registered the case for hearing on Tuesday, June 30.
The court heard a plea to extend the deadline for receiving objections to the EIA 2020 project, which proposes the ex-post approval of the projects and the abolition of public consultation in certain cases, until the foreclosure of the COVID-19 remains.
Environmental activist Vikrant Tongad’s petition said the May 8 notification says the time to invite objections has been extended by 60 days, but it is not clear when the initial 60-day period began.
“If the period of sixty days begins on the date of the draft notification, that is to say on March 23, 2020, the extended expiry date will be July 18, 2020. If the date of notification in the Gazette (the April 11, 2020) is considered to be the beginning of the sixty-day period, the extended expiration date will be August 9, 2020, “said the petition.
He also stated that, at the same time, a contradiction arises in the notification of extension, since an end date of June 30, 2020 is specified, that is less than sixty days from the date of publication of the notification of extension on May 8.
“Thus, the extension notification is not clear and contradictory,” he said.
On June 26, the judiciary asked the Center to specify at the next date what would be the last date to formulate objections / suggestions.
The petition requested that the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification be extended until September 30 or until the lock-in remains.
The EIA 2020 project, according to the petition, completely replaces and replaces existing environmental standards.
“This draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing regime, in particular the complete abolition of public consultation in certain cases, the reduction of the public consultation period from 45 days to 40 days and the authorization of post-approval of projects” , did he declare. Tongad, in its plea, filed through lawyers Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, said that the draft EIA was published on March 23 and published for the first time by the Ministry of the Environment on its website April 11 and that 60 days were allowed to receive objections and suggestions from all stakeholders, including the general public.
However, due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the ensuing foreclosure, the ministry issued a notification on May 8 extending the period for inviting objections / suggestions until June 30, the minister said. advocacy.
He also requested that the translated copies of the draft EIA be made available nationwide in the official vernacular languages mentioned in the eighth annex to the Constitution and be uploaded to all websites, including those of the ministries of the environment. of all the states as well as those of the national pollution control commissions. “
The ASG stated that the draft EIA 2020 was published in Hindi. P