Indians are calling out the Modi government after it told the Delhi High Court that notifications of the controversial draft Environment Impact Assessment in multiple languages would result in “translation and interpretation issues”.
The Union environment ministry moved a plea in the High Court on Saturday seeking a review of its direction to publish the draft EIA in all the 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution, saying that official documents are required to be published only in Hindi and English.
The the ministry contended that law did not require notifications to be published in local languages.
Appearing for the Environment Ministry, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma claimed that the court was “misled” by the petitioner, environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, into passing the June 30 judgement, which had extended till August 11 the date for giving comments and objections to the draft EIA.
The HC had also directed that the notification be published in all the 22 languages within 10 days of the verdict.
In its review plea, the ministry said, “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 claimed 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”.
As the Centre’s review plea circulated online, people called out the ministry’s excuse for avoiding translating the draft law:
Tongad, in the last week of August, had moved an application seeking modification of the June 30 judgement to the extent of granting a 60-day extension for receiving public comments on the translated versions of the draft EIA after they are uploaded on the websites of the respective State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs).
The high court on August 31 issued notice to the ministry and sought its stand on the application by September 23.
Tongad, represented by senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, has contended that the draft EIA was translated into a few vernacular languages after the August 11 deadline expired, but has not been uploaded on the websites of the respective SPCBs.
The application, filed through advocates Srishti Agnihotri and Abishek Jebaraj also said that the ministry has also failed to upload the draft EIA in the English and Hindi language on the websites of the state environment departments and pollution control boards.
The draft EIA 2020, according to the plea, provides for post facto approval of projects and does away with public consultation in some cases.
The petition by Tongad said 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.
Last week, as many as 500 academicians, scientists and researchers from various educational institutes across the country had urged the environment ministry to withdraw the controversial draft EIA notification and strengthen the existing EIA 2006 notification with a new proposal.
(With PTI inputs)