Contempt plea in Delhi HC against govt for not publishing draft EIA in 22 Indian languages

The order came on the plea by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad who has alleged “wilful disobedience and deliberate defiance” by the environment ministry

Photo Courtesy: IANS
Photo Courtesy: IANS
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PTI

The Delhi High Court asked the Centre on Tuesday to reply to a plea seeking contempt action against it for alleged "wilful disobedience" of a judicial order to ensure the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2020 is published in all the 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution within 10 days from June 30

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva issued notice to the Environment Ministry, which was directed by the high court on June 30 to ensure the draft EIA 2020 is published in all 22 Indian languages within 10 days, and sought its response to the contempt plea by August 17.

The order came on the plea by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad who has alleged "wilful disobedience and deliberate defiance" by the ministry as it neither published the translated versions of the draft EIA nor did it seek more time from the court to do so.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Tongad, said the high court, by its June 30 order, had also extended till August 11 the date for giving comments or objections to the draft EIA and for this purpose it had asked the ministry to publish the translated versions to enable the public to respond to the same.

The draft EIA 2020, according to the plea, provides for post facto approval of projects and does away with public consultation in some cases.

A division bench of the high court said in the June 30 order that looking at the far reaching consequences of the public consultation process for which the draft notification has been published, "we are of the view that it would be in aid of effective dissemination of the proposed notification if arrangements are made for its translation into other languages as well, at least those mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution".

The translation may be undertaken by the Centre itself or with the assistance of the state governments, where applicable, it said.

"Such translations should also be published through the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India as well as on websites of environment ministries of all states as well as those of state pollution control boards, within 10 days from today," the court had said.

The publishing the translated versions within 10 days "would further enable the public to respond to the draft within the period stipulated in this judgment", it had stated.

The order had come on Tongad'' plea seeking extension of the time to respond to the draft EIA 2020 till September or till the COVID-19 pandemic subsists.

The petition had claimed that the draft EIA 2020 completely supersedes and replaces the existing environmental norms.

"This draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing regime, including removing public consultation entirely in certain instances, reducing the time for public consultation from 45 days to 40 days, and allowing post facto approvals for projects," it had said.

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