Delhi HC issues Centre notice for environmental appraisal of power, mining projects notification
Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a notice on a petition challenging Centre’s notification constituting the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for environmental appraisal of thermal power and coal mining projects.
The bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan after hearing the submission of petitioner’s Advocate Ritwick Dutta, issued notice to the respondents and slated the matter for January 22, 2021.
According to the petitioner Manoj Mishra, a retired Indian Forest Services officer, Union of India through Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on July 10, 2020, reconstituted the EAC for the environmental appraisal of thermal power and coal mining projects under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006.
The notification shows that the government has appointed a total of nine ‘non-officials’ as members of the EAC and the rest six are officials, the plea said.
The plea filed through Advocate Srishti Agnihotri stated that as per the notification, no ‘expert’ has been appointed despite the mandatory requirement that the EAC should comprise of ‘experts’. The EIA notification does not make any reference to ‘officials’ and ‘non-officials’, and any such appointment or classification is dehors the statutory scheme. The order states that a total of 15 members have been appointed, of which nine are ‘non-officials’, which is completely alien to the statutory scheme, the plea further added.
It also stated that these appointments fly in the face of several precedents laid down by the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court on the appointment of experts to the EACs/other expert environmental bodies. The notification requires members of the said bodies to be experts having certain educational qualifications and relevant experience in specific fields/disciplines including, inter alia, Environment Quality and Project Management in relevant sectors.
The plea added that thus the qualifications for a chairperson are something more than mere expertise. The chairperson must be an ‘outstanding and experienced environmental policy expert’.
The plea sought the quashing of the notification constituting the EAC and a declaration that the appointments of the respondents are illegal. It also says that the EAC for thermal power and coal mining projects has been improperly constituted vide the notification dated July 10, 2020.
The newly appointed chairperson and other members do not meet the prescribed statutory qualifications. Thus, it is imperative that during the pendency of this petition, the EAC does not take any final decision on a thermal power and coal mining project, the plea stated.