Karnataka HC asks Centre not to notify EIA draft
The Karnataka high court has directed the Centre against notifying the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 2020, notification till September 7 as it was not publicized in local languages. A bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and justice Ashok S Kinagi passed the interim order on Wednesday on a United Conservation Movement’s plea, which sought extension of time to file objections to the draft notification, published in English and Hindi, till December 31.
In New Delhi, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the draft has not been finalized yet as the public consultation is still underway and the process of finalization may take more time. He said this in a letter to former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
“I have taken note of your suggestions and objections to the Draft EIA notification, 2020 and your suggestions and objections along with other suggestions and objections received from stakeholders will be considered on merit before finalizing the notification,” wrote Javadekar.
On Ramesh’s concerns that the draft EIA notification would lead to ex-post facto approval to the cases involving violations, Javadekar said previous actions resulting in violations will be made liable to stringent penal action as per the statutory provisions. “The main purpose of this provision is to bring all violators under the regulatory regime by imposing a heavy penalty. You will also agree that we should not allow such companies in perpetual unregulated status,” he wrote. Javadekar said a decision can be taken after discussing concerns.
In a tweet, Javadekar also said: “Today morning only I had sent you a detailed response to your July 25, 2020 letter, which was delivered at your residence office, still you chose to write this letter and make it public through twitter...”
The high court has restrained the Centre from finalizing the draft unless wide publicity was given to it in local languages.
The environment ministry had initially given two months to the public to file their objections after publishing the draft on March 23. But later due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the deadline was extended till August 11.
The court cited the lockdown and language issues and said many people may have been unable to respond to the draft. It granted the ministry liberty to file an application for vacating the stay once the orders are compiled with.
Ramesh earlier asked Javadekar not to proceed with EIA until Parliament’s environment panel completes its deliberations. In a tweet, Ramesh said, “Our Parliamentary Standing Committee has been inundated with requests from various stakeholders to give them an opportunity to present their views on draft EIA 2020. Notification may be kept in abeyance until the Committee completes its deliberations.”
After repeated protests against EIA 2020, Ramesh, who chairs the panel on the environment, scheduled a meeting on August 7 on the issue.
Recommendations of House panels are not binding upon the government. But any critical report on EIA 2020 can be construed as institutional disapproval and remain as a reference for the future debate or policy-making. A panel can also seek action-taken reports from the ministry on its recommendations.
The critics claim the draft EIA legitimises post-facto environment clearance, excludes major industries from the EIA process, subverts the public hearing process, reduces the scope of citizens to report violations, and fails to address a project’s impact on wildlife, and habitats.
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