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Delhi HC Indicates To Extend Time Granted To Public To Give Suggestions For EIA 2020

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, while partly allowing a petition seeking an extension of time for the public to submit suggestions for the Draft EIA 2020, said that a detailed order will be passed later on.

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday indicated that it might extend the time granted to the general public to give their suggestions for the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020.

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, while partly allowing a petition seeking an extension of time for the public to submit suggestions for the Draft EIA 2020, said that a detailed order will be passed later on. The bench also clarified that the cut-off date for the public to give suggestions with regards to the Draft EIA 2020 is August 11, 2020.

The court observed that the notification extending notice period has some errors and that there is some ambiguity in the same.

The court was hearing a petition, filed by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, seeking directions to extend the period for the public to submit their suggestions for the draft EIA notification 2020 until September 30, 2020, or till such further period till the COVID-19 lockdown subsists.

It also sought directions to make translated copies of the draft notification available across the country in the official vernacular languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, and upload the same on all its websites.

The petitioner urged the court to issue directions for conducting consultations with various stakeholders and concerned persons across the country through its State Pollution Control Boards, as a precondition to considering the draft notification.

"On March 23, the government published a draft notification on Draft Environmental Impact Assessment and, as per Rule 5 of the Environment Protection Rules, sought objections or suggestions from members of the public," the plea said.

"However, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a force majeure event, the public has been unable to comment meaningfully on the draft... Recognising the difficulties faced by the public the government vide notification later extended the notice period to the public until June 30, 2020, on the belief that the COVID-19 lockdown would be over by then," it added.

It said that even this time is woefully inadequate, since cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and there are still several restrictions on 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 claimed and added that postal services have been suspended in cities like Mumbai and Delhi due to which citizens cannot send their objections. 

(ANI)