Translated Draft Environment Assessment In 22 Languages: Centre To High Court

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The Centre informed the Delhi High Court on Friday that it has translated the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in all the 22 vernacular languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel consequently directed that 60 days be given from the date of online publication of the translated versions of the draft for filing of objections by stakeholders.

The bench, also comprising Justice Prateek Jalan, was hearing the Centre’s review petition against the order directing the Environment Ministry to translate the draft EIA notification in all the 22 languages within 10 days of the order and publish the same of official websites.

The court’s order had come on June 30, 2020, on a PIL by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongat (petitioner), seeking publication of the notification in all vernacular languages and also extension of deadline for receiving public comments on it.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma told the court that in compliance of the order, the draft notification has been translated.

Counsel for the petitioner informed the court that while the translation has taken place, the documents were yet to be published online in order to facilitate to the process of filing of objections.

“The procedural part is in the hands of some officer. It will be uploaded,” the court observed as it stated that the main task of translation has already been completed.

However, it added, “We expect from the Union of India and the agencies of Union of India that the order of the court shall be complied with in true spirit and letters.”

The court also allowed the petitioner’s application seeking 60 days to file objections to the draft policy after the same is uploaded.

“Now respondent (Centre) has already translated the notification in all languages as stated in the order dated June 30,2020. We therefore direct Union of India to grant 60 days from the date of uploading of documents for filing of objections by concerned stakeholders,” the court ordered.

In January, the high court had said that it could not understand why the Centre was “vehemently” resisting its order to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment in all 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution.

It had stated that the government would have to understand the objections in local languages to the draft EIA and therefore, “what was the harm in translating it in all the 22 languages”.

In February, the court had observed that its view that the draft EIA be translated in all 22 languages should not be taken so “combatively” by the central government.

People in remote areas are “our citizens” who need to be heard and may not understand the draft if published only in English and Hindi, the court had said to the Environment Ministry which had initially raised objections in respect of translating the draft EIA in the vernacular languages.

The June 2020 order was initially 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 Supreme Court also put on hold the proceedings in the contempt plea filed by Mr Tongat for non-compliance of the June 30, 2020 direction.

Subsequently, the ministry filed a plea seeking review of the June 30 order on the grounds that official documents are required to be published only in Hindi and English.

The petition by Mr Tongat had claimed that the draft EIA 2020 completely supersedes and replaces the existing environmental norms along. It stated that the new policy provided for post facto approval of projects and does away with public consultation in some cases.

“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.

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