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HC notice to Centre on plea seeking more time for response to EIA draft

HC notice to Centre on plea seeking more time for response to EIA draft

New Delhi:  The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre on an application seeking modification of the court’s earlier orders and extend the timeline for filing of public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification.

A division bench of the high court presided by Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan sought a response from the Central government over the application filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad and slotted the matter for further hearing on September 23.

Tongad in his application filed through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj has sought modification of the high court’s June 30 order. The plea seeks 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 of the Constitution of India.

The application sought the court’s directions to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to upload the translated versions of the draft EIA 2020 on the home page of its main website.

On June 30, the high court while partly allowing the petition filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, extended till August 11 the time for giving suggestions and objections to draft the EIA 2020.

The bench extended the time after the Environment Ministry failed to address the query of the court regarding “ambiguity” in its decision extending time till June 30 for filing objections and suggestions to its draft EIA 2020.

Earlier, the High Court had observed that there is ambiguity in the notification and had asked the Central government how it will be resolved. In the last hearing, the court had issued notice to the Centre to file its response on the matter.

On March 23, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) published a draft notification on the Environmental Impact Assessment and sought objections or suggestions from members of the public. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government extended the notice period until June 30 hoping that the lockdown would end, the plea said.

“However, even this time is woefully inadequate, since cases of Covid-19 are on the rise, and there are still several restrictions on people’s movements and access to technology and resources. The extension notification itself is contradictory and unclear as to the exact duration of extension of the notice period,” the plea said.

The petitioner also contended that the postal services have been suspended in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, on account of which citizens cannot send their objections to the government.

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