Delhi High Court
The Delhi High court on Friday issued notice to Centre on a plea seeking directions to extend the period for receiving objections from public with regard to its draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 till September or till such further period until the Covid-19 lockdown subsists.
The next date of hearing is on 29 June.
The plea states that on 23 March, Centre published a draft notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (Draft EIA Notification 2020/ Draft Notification) and, as per Rule 5 of the Environment Protection Rules, sought objections or suggestions from members of the public. However, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a force majeure event, the public has been unable to comment meaningfully on the draft.
The plea filed by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad also seeks direction to the respondents to make translated copies of the draft notification available across the country in the official vernacular languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, and upload the same on all its websites including those of the Environment Ministries of all the States as well as those of the State Pollution Control Boards
The plea seeks to protect the rights of the people of India to a clean environment and human health and their right to community participation guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as well as under the provisions of the EP Act, 1986.
The plea states that the draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing framework and is likely to affect the rights of the public significantly. The public’s comments are all the more necessary when their interests are so significantly at stake, it said.
The plea alleges that extension notification itself is contradictory and unclear as to the exact duration of extension of notice period.
“ Further, Postal services have been suspended, in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, on account of which citizens cannot send their objections to the Respondent… As a result of this, the members of public have been unable to comment on a substantive notification that completely supersedes and replaces the existing environmental norms.” The plea states.