The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday asked the Union government to consider giving wide publicity to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification issued on March 23, so that citizens can lodge their objections to it. The last date for submitting objections is August 11.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna, while hearing a petition filed by a trust United Conservation Movement, said
"In days of pandemic, it (notification) cannot be limited to official gazette and website. The Central Government can exercise powers under the Environment Protection Rules and give wide publicity to the EIA notification dated March 23, so that citizens will be in position to lodge objections prior to August 11 2020."
Advocate Prince Issac and Advocate Bhavya AC, appearing for the petitioner, argued that when such notifications were issued by the government in past, it used to give wide publicity even in vernacular newspapers. But the present notification published during the period of lockdown is notified only in the official gazette and on the official website of the Ministry. Thereby, it has deprived the large general public of their legitimate right to file suggestions and objections, which is a violation of natural justice, the petitioner argued.
The petitioners also argued for directing the Union Government to extend the time for submitting the suggestions/objections till December 31, due to the current situation of pandemic.
The bench however rejected this prayer saying it cannot direct the government to extend the deadline fixed by it.
Moreover, the Delhi High Court by its order dated June 30, has already extended the time to file suggestions/objections till August 11, the Court noted.
The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on July 16 and directed the Central government to file its memo or written submissions.
Last week, the Delhi HC had extended the deadline for submitting objections against draft EIA notification till August 11. The earlier deadline was June 30. The HC also directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to publish the notification in 22 official languages.