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Delhi HC extends time granted to public to give suggestions for draft EIA 2020

ANI | Updated: Jul 02, 2020 00:16 IST

New Delhi [India], July 2 (ANI): Delhi High Court has extended the time granted to the general public to give their suggestions for the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 till August 11.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan clarified that the time limit to file the objections to the draft notification is up to August 11, 2020.
The court observed that there was ambiguity in the notification dated May 8 which extended the time limit for people to give their suggestion to draft notification. The court noted that the government stated that it was extending the notice period for a further period of sixty days, which appears that the notice period will be over on August 11, 2020 whereas in the notification dated May 8, 2020 the last date was mentioned was June 30, 2020.
"Thus, looking to the earlier notification which was published on April 11, 2020, the time limit to file objection was up to June 11, 2020 and the subsequent notification dated May 8, 2020 extending the notice period for a further period of sixty days, it appears that the notice period will be over on August 11, 2020 whereas in the notification dated May 8, 2020 it has been mentioned as June 30, 2020," the order copy said.
The court, while partly allowing a petition seeking an extension of time for the public to submit suggestions for the Draft EIA 2020, said the ambiguity in the notification must be resolved in favour of the public whose comments are invited.
"This would also aid the process of effective public consultation, which is built into the statutory scheme and for which purpose the extension notification dated May 8, 2020 was issued," the court said in its June 30 order.
The bench opined that the proposed notification should be translated into other languages too for effective dissemination. The court said that such translation may be undertaken by the central government itself, or with the assistance of the respective state governments, where applicable.
The court directed that translations should also be published through the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as well as on websites of environment ministries of all the states as well as those of state pollution control boards within ten days from today.
The court was hearing a petition, filed by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, seeking directions to extend the period for the public to submit their suggestions for the draft EIA notification 2020 until September 30, 2020, or till such further period till the COVID-19 lockdown subsists.
It also sought directions 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.
The petitioner urged the court to issue directions for conducting consultations with various stakeholders and concerned persons across the country through its State Pollution Control Boards, as a precondition to considering the draft notification.
"On March 23, the government published a draft notification on Draft Environmental Impact Assessment and, as per Rule 5 of the Environment Protection Rules, sought objections or suggestions from members of the public," the plea said.
"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... Recognising the difficulties faced by the public the government vide notification later extended the notice period to the public until June 30, 2020, on the belief that the COVID-19 lockdown would be over by then," it added.
It said that even this time is woefully inadequate, since cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and there are still several restrictions on movements and access to technology and resources.
The extension notification itself is contradictory and unclear as to the exact duration of extension of the notice period, the plea claimed and added that postal services have been suspended in cities like Mumbai and Delhi due to which citizens cannot send their objections. (ANI)