The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that it cannot understand why the Centre was resisting its order to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment 2020 in all 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, reported PTI.
“We don’t understand why the Union government is resisting vehemently an order of this court for translating the draft into all the languages so that everyone can understand it and respond to it,” a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said.
The High Court said the government would need to understand the objections raised in local languages to the draft Environment Impact Assessment, or EIA. “[So], what was the harm in translating it in all the 22 languages,” the bench asked.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that the government has already received 20 lakh responses to the draft EIA and therefore it was not necessary to translate it into any more languages.
Sharma said the Constitution also does not state that the notification needed to be translated in all languages. The High Court responded that the Constitution says that the final notification may not be translated in all the languages, but it does not mention anything about the draft that is put out for receiving public opinion.
The additional solicitor general claimed translating the draft policy as per the court’s order would lead to administrative problems as the government does not have the means to do so. “It will be administratively chaotic,” he said. “There will be gaping gaps in the different translations.”
The court, however, did not agree with Sharma’s submission. “In modern day, it cannot be a factually impossible task,” it said.
The Centre has to explain its difficulties in translating the draft EIA by February 25. The next hearing has been scheduled for the same date.
The High Court was hearing the Centre’s plea seeking review of its June 2020 order to the Environment Ministry to translate the draft EIA notification in all the 22 languages within 10 days of the order.
In September, the Centre had filed a review petition against the June 30 order. The High Court had, during the hearing, also put on hold the proceedings in the contempt plea filed by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad against the Centre for non-compliance of the June 30 direction.
Tongad’s plea said that the draft EIA provides for post facto approval of projects and does away with public consultation in some cases. The plea said that the draft EIA completely supersedes and replaces existing environmental norms.
The EIA, 2020
The 2020 Environment Impact Assessment draft has been widely criticised for its problematic changes in rules. Experts say most of the provisions in the new draft are a regressive departure from the earlier version.
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.
Some of the criticism against it includes that the draft notification does away with the requirement for public consultation for a number of projects.
Agencies affiliated with the Centre had last year blocked the websites of some environmental organisations that have opposed the draft EIA 2020.