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Monday, April 12, 2021

Draft EIA translation: Don’t take combative stand, Delhi HC tells Centre

“There is that impression that for some reason the Union is resisting very hard that there should be this consultation with those who do not speak Hindi and English…,” said the court.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: February 26, 2021 7:32:54 am
The court made the observation during the hearing of Centre's review petition against the court's June 2020 order.

OBSERVING THAT the Centre should not oppose “so combatively” the order directing it to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification into the 22 languages mentioned in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said the Union government for “some reason” was resisting “very hard” the consultation with those who do not speak Hindi and English.

“Every legislative exercise does not require public consultation but some of the Acts statutorily embody the concept of public consultation. In that situation to make that consultation effective, meaningful and comprehensive … I am putting to you that perhaps the view taken by the court is not the one which the Union (of India) needs to take so combatively,” a division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan told Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma during a hearing.

“There is that impression that for some reason the Union is resisting very hard that there should be this consultation with those who do not speak Hindi and English…,” said the court.

The court made the observation during the hearing of Centre’s review petition against the court’s June 2020 order. The Centre has argued that it does not have constitutional or statutory obligation to publish the draft EIA notification in any language apart from Hindi and English. Trying to do so would cause massive procedural and administrative difficulties, the government has said, while arguing that the court order would create a precedent and lead to future demands of translation of all statutory regulations in different languages.

The division bench also said if the translation is possible at pre-draft stage – like in the case of Pre-draft Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2010 – then the Centre needs to think of a way in which the consultation process is “inclusive to those who do not speak the two languages”.

“You come up with a solution and tell us,” said the court. It said it cannot accept that the central government does not have the administrative capacity to translate into languages that are recognised by the Constitution.

The court said the states can do the translation and the question is of effective consultation. “If we look at the environmental laws and impact of the notifications, several industries will have to be closed down. Suppose somebody is staying in a remote area of Assam or Tamil Nadu, he may not be aware of the languages in which you want to publish. Where will be the effective consultation? What is wrong in hearing? They are our own citizens. They are not foreigners,” said the court.

In a case filed by Vikrant Tongand last year, the court had allowed the prayer for translation of draft EIA notification 2020 into other languages while observing that the translation would be in aid of effective dissemination of the proposed notification.

The Centre’s review petition will be heard next on March 26.

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