The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed contempt proceedings pending in the Delhi High Court against the Centre for alleged “willful disobedience” of its order to publish the draft 2020 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in all 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
“The contempt petition shall remain stayed till the disposal of the review petition,” a bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said while hearing an appeal filed by the Centre against the HC order.
Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta agreed to withdraw the appeal and seek relief before the HC.
Agreeing, the court ordered, “Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the aforesaid liberty. Needless to state that in case the petitioner fails before the High Court, it is permitted to approach this Court once again challenging the main order as well as the order passed in the review petition.”
The Delhi High Court had on August 11 asked the Centre to reply to a plea by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad seeking contempt action against it for alleged non-compliance of the HC’s June 30 order on the notification.
Mehta sought a stay of the HC order regarding publication of notification in multiple languages saying the official language rules only say publication in Hindi and English.
“You are right as far as the General Clauses Act is concerned”, the CJI said, adding that the government, however, had not brought this to the notice of the HC.
“We think that the spirit in which the HC order is passed is correct. There could be people in areas like Karnataka or rural Maharashtra or Nagaland where people don’t know Hindi or English,” the CJI added.
The CJI said the government could consider amendment of the official languages Act. “These days translation is the easiest thing on earth. We translate Judgments, parliament has instant translation software.
“It’s time for you to update your Act,” he said.
“I’m quoting Einstein who tried to translate the Bhagvad Gita as a metaphysical treatise. He said translation is like backside of an embroidery. Doesn’t make sense,” Mehta quipped.
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