A division bench of the High Court presided by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan adjourned the matter till June 30 while asking the Central government's counsel to seek instructions if there is a possibility of extension of the time limit.
The High Court observed that there is ambiguity in the concerned notification and asked the Central government how it will be resolved. In the last hearing, the court had issued notice to the Centre to file its response on the matter.
Vikrant Tongad through his petition sought extension of the timeline granted to the public to give its suggestion regarding the EIA 2020, ending on June 30, to September 30 or till the time the Covid-19 lockdown is in force.
On March 23, this year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) published a draft notification on Environmental Impact Assessment and sought objections or suggestions from members of the public. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government extended the notice period to the public until June 30 hoping that the lockdown would end, the plea said.
"However, even this time is woefully inadequate, since cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and there are still several restrictions on people's movements and access to technology and resources. The extension notification itself is contradictory and unclear as to the exact duration of extension of notice period," the plea said.
The petitioner further contended that the postal services have been suspended, in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, on account of which citizens cannot send their objections to the government.
"As a result of this, the members of public have been unable to comment on a substantive notification that completely supersedes and replaces the existing environmental norms," the petitioner said.
Tongad further states that in order to facilitate a fair and meaningful consultation, the notification needs to be translated into all official vernacular languages and shall be placed at a prominent position on the MoEF & CC website as well as the websites of the Central and State Pollution Control Board and the Environment Ministries of all the States.