The Karnataka High Court on Monday extended the stay on the publication of the Final Notification based on the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change until further orders.
A division bench headed by Cheif Justice Abhay S Oka extended the interim order passed on August 5, after the Centre did not file its response today.
On August 5, the HC had first stayed the matter, six days before the last date for submission of objections to the draft, after noting that the COVID-19 lockdown had deprived people of effective opportunities to submit their responses and objections to the draft. The bench had also noted that the draft notification was not published in Kannada language.
The bench had observed, "Prima facie it appears to us that the Right of Citizens to file objection has been taken away."
The bench in its order had clarified that it will be open for respondents to take all permissible steps on the basis of impugned draft notification. The bench had also granted liberty to the Centre to seek vacation of the stay on granting reasonable time to people to file objections after giving wide publicity to the notification.
The bench had deprecated the stand taken by the Central government that the notification can be published in the Official Gazette only in Hindi and English languages.
In regard to the stand of the Centre that all State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has been directed to give wide publicity to the draft notification in local languages, the court said "Till today it is not brought on record by respondents that publicity is given in Kannada language."
On July 23, the bench had noted "Prima facie, we do not agree with the submission that the hands of the respondent are tied by virtue of provisions of the Official Languages Act and that they cannot ensure publication of the notification in official languages of the state."
A perusal of clause (a) of sub-rule (3) Rule 5 of the Environment Protection Rules shows that there is power vesting in the Central Government to publish the draft notification in such other manner as the Central Government may deem it necessary from time to time."
The August 5 order passed in a petition filed by United Conservation Movement. Advocate Prince Issac, appearing for the petitioners, had argued that in the past when such notifications were issued by the government it gave wide publicity even in vernacular newspapers.
On Monday, along with the petition filed by United Conservation Movement, the bench issued notice in a fresh petition filed by Bangalore Environment Trust, filed through Advocates Pradeep Nayak and Vanshdeep Dalmia, challenging the draft EIA notification 2020.
Earlier, the Delhi HC had directed the Centre to extend the last date of filing objections to the draft EIA notification from June 30 to August 11.
The Delhi HC had also directed that the notification should be publicized in local languages.