The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Environment to not publish the final draft notification of the Environmental Impact Assessment 2020 till September 7, Live Law reported. The court’s order came on a petition alleging that the notification was not being sufficiently publicised amid the coronavirus crisis.
The court noted that since the draft Environmental Impact Assessment, 2020, was published on March 23, two days before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus, people had not been able to file objections to the document. “Prima facie, it appears to us that the Right of Citizens to file objections has been taken away,” the division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi said.
The bench, however, said that if the Centre is willing to grant sufficient time to the people to file their objections, it could apply for vacating the interim relief. The court’s next hearing in the case will be on September 7.
The Karnataka High Court bench also objected to the Centre’s decision to publish the document only in Hindi and English. “It cannot be disputed as far as the State of Karnataka is concerned, there may be many citizens who are not well conversant in Hindi and English language and would like to file objections.”
Advocate Shiva Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the government was not obliged to publicise the draft notification in regional languages.
In June, the Delhi High Court had also rebuked the Centre for not addressing the ambiguity in its order to extend time granted for submission of objections to the proposed EIA 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 had extended the time to submit objections to the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment notification till August 11.
The new updates to the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment notification 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.
Several environmentalists and organisations have alleged that the draft notification does away with the requirement for public consultation for a number of projects that could create an adverse ecological impact.