The Delhi High Court on Tuesday extended the time to submit objections to the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment notification till August 11, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan passed the order after the Ministry of Environment did not address the court’s question about ambiguity in its order to extend time granted for submission of objections till June 30. The court said the Centre’s May 8 notification about extension mentioned a “further period” of 60 days and also said that the window to file objections would close on June 30.
The court heard a petition filed by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad, claiming that the extension granted by the Centre to file objections was “woefully inadequate” amid restrictions on postal services in places like Delhi and Mumbai because of the coronavirus crisis.
During a hearing on Monday, the petitioner had told the court that the Centre’s May 8 notification said that the time period for submitting objections to the draft Environment Impact Assessment had been extended by another 60 days, but it was unclear when the initial period of 60 days began.
“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,” Tongad had said “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 high court rebuked the Centre on Tuesday for not addressing the ambiguity in its notification. “We are, frankly, a little surprised at the obstinacy of the central government,” the court said, according to PTI. “The government is being obdurate in this matter. Your reply is conspicuously silent about it. It amounts to not answering our query.”
Documents accessed by Right to Information Act applicants last week showed that Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar overruled the recommendations of senior officials from his ministry to extend the time frame for public feedback on the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification.
Javadekar fixed the deadline to seek public comments and objections to the proposal for June 30, instead of August 10. The new updates, which seeks to overhaul the existing EIA 2006, prescribe the procedure for industries to assess the ecological and environmental impact of their proposed activity and the mechanism whereby these would be assessed by expert committees appointed by the environment ministry.
The Centre’s new notification, officially available online on March 23, gave a 60-day period for public consultation. The time frame for comments was extended to June 30 due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.