The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking a 60-day extension to reply to the translated version of the Environmental Impact Assessment 2020 draft notification after it is uploaded on respective State Pollution Control Board websites, PTI reported.

In its June 30 ruling, the High Court had extended the time in which to reply or raise objections to the draft till August 11. It had also directed the environment ministry to translate the draft notification in all the 22 languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution within 10 days.

The plea sought that the government be directed to “extend the time for public comments on the draft EIA notification 2020 by a period of 60 days from the date of uploading the translated versions of the draft notification in all the languages mentioned in Schedule VIII in the websites of the respective SPCBs [State Pollution Control Boards]”.

Environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad, who filed the petition, argued that the Centre has only translated the draft notification in to a few languages following the expiration of the August 11 deadline. He added that the translated drafts too have not been uploaded on the respective State Pollution Control Board websites.

The plea also claimed that the government failed to upload the translated draft notification in English and Hindi on the websites of state departments and pollution control boards. “Thus, the respondent (ministry) has not taken even the bare minimum steps to give wide publicity to the contents of the draft notification,” the plea, filed through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, stated.

The June 30 High Court verdict had come following Tongad’s plea, which had sought to extend the date to file a reply to the draft notification till September or when the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

The petition had also said that the draft replaced existing environmental norms.

Various environmental activists, bureaucrats and politicians, including former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, have raised objections to the draft.

Some of the criticism includes that the draft notification does away with the requirement for public consultation for a number of projects. Agencies affiliated to the Centre had earlier this month blocked the websites of some environmental organisations that have opposed the draft EIA 2020.

Baghel had criticised the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, 2020, saying the draft has ignored the sensitivity required for ecological conservation. He had also claimed that exempting a large number of projects from public hearing and giving post facto clearances will adversely affect the rights of the forest dwellers to conserve, manage and protect forests.

On similar lines, Ramesh had called the draft “deeply anti-democratic,” “anti-public” and “anti-cooperative federalism.”

Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar had on August 10 called the criticism “premature” as the document was merely a draft at this stage.

The new updates to the draft 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.

It prevents the proposed activity or project from being approved without proper oversight or taking adverse consequences into account.