New Delhi, September 23
The Centre translated the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in all the 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution but much after the deadline set by the Delhi High Court.
An environmental conservationist on whose PIL a direction for translating the notification was issued told the high court that the draft EIA in all 22 languages were translated quite late.
He informed that the translated draft EIA was published on the websites of Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, and Goa Pollution Control Board on August 19 after expiry of the August 11 deadline for receiving comments.
A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan on June 30 had directed the Environment Ministry to translate the draft EIA notification in all the 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution within 10 days of the order and had also extended till August 11 the time for receiving remarks from the public.
The order had come on the PIL by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad seeking publication of the notification in all vernacular languages and also extension of the time to receive public comments on it.
The June 30 order was challenged by the ministry in the Supreme Court which allowed the government to withdraw its appeal and instead file a review before the high court.
The apex court also put on hold the proceedings in the contempt plea filed by Tongad for non-compliance of the June 30 direction.
Subsequently, the ministry filed a plea seeking review of the June 30 order on the ground that official documents are required to be published only in Hindi and English.
It had also contended that the law does not require notifications to be published in local languages.
Seeking dismissal of the review plea, Tongad in his reply has alleged that the ministry has “failed” to mention that the translations have been completed.
Tongad also said in his reply that the ministry in its office memorandum of July 4 to all the states and union territories requested all of them to translate the draft EIA, but also said that the translations be not uploaded on their respective websites till they receive specific directions to do so from the central government.
“This additional requirement of specific directions from the ministry is contrary to the express directions of this court to publish the translations on the website of the Ministry of Environment as well as on the websites of environment ministries of all the states and those of State Pollution Control Boards,” the reply, filed through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj, said.
On publishing of the draft EIA on the websites of Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, and Goa Pollution Control Board on August 19 after expiry of the August 11 deadline for receiving comments, the reply said “Such uploading has become a mere formality since the deadline for receiving public comments has not been extended beyond August 11, 2020.
“Thus, to ensure effective public consultation, the deadline for comments must be further extended,” it has further said.
The court on Wednesday listed the matter for hearing on October 23 after the ministry sought time to respond to the reply filed by Tongad.
The ministry, in its review plea, has claimed that the court was “misled” by the petitioner into passing the June 30 judgement.
“The present petition is being preferred only to the extent that this court has directed the respondent/applicant (ministry) to make all arrangements for the translation of the draft EIA notification 2020 into various languages and at least the languages mentioned in the Eight Schedule to the Constitution,” the ministry has said in its petition.
It has contended that notifications or draft notifications and other official documents are required to be issued only in Hindi and English and there is no mandate in law to issue them in any other vernacular or local languages.
“Issuance of notifications in multiple languages would in any case result in translation and interpretation issues resulting in the meaning of the words being obfuscated and often even lost,” it has said.
It has contended that the June 30 decision of the high court “suffers from error apparent on the face of the record”, as it did not consider that neither the Official Languages Act of 1963 nor the Environment Protection Rules require that the draft notifications have to be issued in any other languages other than English and Hindi.
It has also claimed that till August 14, the ministry had received 19.8 lakh responses to the draft EIA from across the country and several of the comments were also in vernacular languages “which suggests that the objective with regard to wide publicity of draft EIA notification 2020 has been achieved by and large”.
The draft EIA 2020, according to Tongad’s plea, provides for post facto approval of projects and does away with public consultation in some cases.
The petition by Tongad had claimed that the draft EIA 2020 completely supersedes and replaces the existing environmental norms.
“This draft notification proposes significant changes to the existing regime, including removing public consultation entirely in certain instances, reducing the time for public consultation from 45 days to 40 days, and allowing post facto approvals for projects,” it had said. PTI