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The Court was of the view that considering the prevailing COVID-19 situation, the Centre ought to have come out with an extension of time for filing objections against the Draft EIA notification.
The Karnataka High Court on Thursday pulled up the Central government for not issuing the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in vernacular languages (United Conservation Movement Charitable and Welfare Trust(r) v. Union of India).
This direction came in a plea highlighting the fact that there was severe lack of publicity of the Draft EIA notification issued on March 23. As of now, the last date for submitting objections is August 11.
The order passed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna reads,
Karnataka High Court
In its order, the Bench further opined that,
"It is not in dispute that the impugned Draft Notification is of drastic nature and if final notification is published in terms of the same, it will drastically affect many industries and individuals..."
Therefore, the Court proceeded issue notice in the matter.
The Court was further of the view that considering the prevailing situation of COVID-19, the Centre ought to have come out with an extension of time in filing objections against the Draft EIA notification.
During the hearing, counsel appearing for the Centre Shiva Kumar informed the Court that the EIA Notification was issued by the Ministry as per the Official Languages Act. As per rule, it is published in Hindi and English in the Official Gazette. He further contended that there is no such provision that mandates the notification to be issued in vernacular languages.
"If we start publishing in vernacular languages, milord, then the burden on us (Central government) will be more in the coming days", said Kumar.
In response to this submission, the Court remarked that the Centre was taking a very hyper-technical stand in the matter.
Kumar further submitted that Centre intends that the notification reaches everyone, as it is an important and sensitive one, which is likely to affect many. Further, Kumar informed the Court that the Centre was following up with state authorities to translate Draft Notification into vernacular languages and give it wider publicity.
However, Kumar also raised a concern that some persons may "interpret the notification wrongly" when it is issued in vernacular languages.
The matter has been posted for hearing on August 5.
Last week, the Karnataka High Court had asked the Central government to consider extending the time for filing objections pertaining to the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued on March 23.