NEW DELHI—The Delhi High Court has directed the Narendra Modi government to translate the controversial draft Environment Impact Assessment notification 2020 into all 22 languages mentioned in the eight schedule of the Indian constitution, and publish it on the websites of the environment ministries and pollution control boards of all state governments by July 10 to ensure wider public consultation.
“We are of the view that it would be in aid of effective dissemination of the proposed notification if arrangements are made for its translation into other languages as well, at least those mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution,” wrote the two judge Delhi HC bench comprising Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Pratik Jalan in its seven page judgment dated June 30 which was released late on Wednesday evening.
“Such translations should also be published through the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India as well as on websites of Environment Ministries of all the States as well as those of State Pollution Control Boards, within ten days from today. This would further enable the public to respond to the draft within the period stipulated in this judgment,” the judgment also noted.
Records show that the Narendra Modi government published the draft of India’s most important law for environment clearances, the environment impact assessment notification, only in Hindi and English. Senior Counsel Gopal Shankarnarayan, who argued Tongad’s PIL before the judges, mentioned during the hearing that though the notification had been published only in two languages, it is proposed to have effect all over India and to several industries and comments have been elicited from all over the country.
“Among the 22 languages that the Narendra Modi government will now print the draft notification in are the more widely spoken languages like Marathi, Punjabi and Tamil as well as those like Maithili, Manipuri and Konkani which are spoken by relatively small numbers of people.”
So to emphasise his point about the need for wider consultations about the draft notification in a greater number of languages, Shankarnarayan cited the example of the draft Coastal Regulation Zone notification 2010 which had been published in September 2010 in nine coastal languages in addition to Hindi and English. The court appears to have been convinced.
Among the 22 languages that the Narendra Modi government will now print the draft notification in are the more widely spoken languages like Marathi, Punjabi and Tamil as well as those like Maithili, Manipuri and Konkani which are spoken by relatively small numbers of people. A full list of the 22 Eight Schedule languages can be seen here.
The judgment grabbed headlines on Tuesday when the High Court extended the date for consultation about the controversial draft EIA notification 2020 to August 11 despite the union environment ministry’s insistence that June 30 ought to be the last date. The court explained that, since the first notification was issued officially on April 11, the mandatory sixty day consultation period would have been exhausted on June 11. However, keeping in mind the COVID19 lockdown, the government had extended the consultation period by another 60 days so the final date for consultation should be August 11 and yet the official record shows June 30 as the date. “This is an error apparent on the face of the record,” the HC noted in its order.
The issue of dates for public consultation became a major point of contention last week after HuffPost India revealed, based on official documents of the environment ministry accessed through the Right to Information, that union environment minister Prakash Javadekar overruled his own officials’ suggestion that the consultation period be extended till August 10 and vetoed 30 June 2020 as the date instead without giving any reasons or explanations. But following a Public Interest Litigation filed by environment activist Vikrant Tongad, the Delhi HC has now directed the union environment ministry to extend the consultations till August 11 by publishing the notification in 22 languages of the eight schedule.