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The time limit to file the objections to the Draft EIA Notification 2020 was earlier set at August 11, 2020.
The Delhi High Court today issued notice in an application seeking a direction to further extend the deadline to submit objections to the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 (Vikrant Tongad v. Union of India).
The application seeks an extention by 60 days from the date on which all the translated copies of the Draft Notification become available for the public.
Notice to the Central government was issued by a Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.
The application forms part of the writ petition filed by Vikrant Tongad seeking the extension of the notice period for submitting objections to the Draft EIA Notification.
While disposing of Tongad's petition, the Court had granted the Centre time till July 10, 2020 to publish the Draft EIA Notification 2020 in the languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
The Court had then odered that the time limit to file the objections to the Draft EIA Notification 2020 was up to August 11, 2020.
The petitioner moved the instant application in view of the fact that while the deadline for the submissions of objections was over, the translated copies of the notification were yet to be uploaded on the official websites.
The Court was informed that the Draft Notification was made available on the homepage of the main website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) only on August 24. The same was not uploaded, even in the English and Hindi languages, on the websites of the State Environment Departments and State Pollution Control Boards.
Claiming that the Centre did not even take the bare minimum steps to give wide publicity to the contents of the Draft Notification, the petitioner has stated,
"As the deadline for receiving public comments has lapsed as on 11th August 2020, an anomalous situation has been created throughout the country wherein speakers of vernacular languages will not be allowed to respond to the draft Notification, while English and Hindi speakers have got a total time of 120 days to respond to the draft notification. It is submitted that this anomalous situation has arbitrariness writ large over it, and negates the very letter and spirit of the order of this Hon’ble Court dated 30.6.2020."
The petitioner has contended that no prejudice would be caused to anyone should the period for public comments be extended by 60 days from the date on which all the translated copies of the Draft Notification become available.
A prayer is thus made to modify the earlier order on the extension of the deadline for submission of objections.
Earlier this month, the petitioner had moved a contempt plea with respect to the non-translation of the Draft Notification. The proceedings in the contempt plea were, however, stayed by the Supreme Court.
The matter will be heard next on September 23.
Senior Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan appeared for the Petitioner. ASG Chetan Sharma appeared for Centre.