Today, the Karnataka High Court extended the stay till further orders on the publication of the Final Notification based on the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
On 7th September 2020 Chief Justice Abhay S Oka headed bench extended the August 5 interim order pursuant to the Centre not filing a response.
Background to the EIA Notification
After noting that the COVID-19 lockdown had deprived people of effective opportunities to submit their responses and objections to the draft, the HC had first stayed the matter on August 5, which was six days before the last date for submission of objections to the draft.
Observations by the Bench in the EIA Matter
Noting’s were made by the bench that the draft notification was not published in Kannada language.
The bench observed,
“Prima facie it appears to us that the Right of Citizens to file objection has been taken away.”
Clarifications by the Bench
It was clarified in the order that all respondents may take all permissible steps on the basis of impugned draft notification.
After giving wide publicity to the notification, Liberty to the Centre was also granted by the bench to seek vacation of the stay on granting reasonable time to people to file objections.
The Central government’s stand about the notification to be published in the Official Gazette only in Hindi and English languages was not looked well by the bench.
All State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) have been directed to give wide publicity to the draft notification in local languages.
The court expressed, “Till today it is not brought on record by respondents that publicity is given in Kannada language.”
The bench marked on July 23 that, “Prima facie, we do not agree with the submission that the hands of the respondent are tied by virtue of provisions of the Official Languages Act and that they cannot ensure publication of the notification in official languages of the state.”
A perusal of clause (a) of sub-rule (3) Rule 5 of the Environment Protection Rules shows that there is power vesting in the Central Government to publish the draft notification in such other manner as the Central Government may deem it necessary from time to time.”
About the August 5th Order and the EIA Notification
Advocate Prince Issac, appearing for the petitioners in a petition filed by United Conservation Movement had argued that in the past when such notifications were issued by the government it gave wide publicity even in vernacular newspapers and hence August 5 order was passed.
The bench issued notice in a fresh petition filed by Bangalore Environment Trust along with the petition filed by United Conservation Movement, challenging the draft EIA notification 2020. Advocates Pradeep Nayak and Vanshdeep Dalmia filed the petition.
Delhi HC Stance
Delhi HC had directed the Centre to extend the last date from June 30 to August 11 for filing objections to the draft EIA notification and that the notification should be publicized in local languages.