While hearing the petition filed by a trust United Conservation Movement the division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna has expressed displeasure over the stand taken by the Central Government that it will not publish the draft Environment Impact Assessment, (EIA) notification issued on March 23, in the official languages of the states. The bench has decided to consider on August 5 the prayer to stay the notification.
Prima facie the Bench did not agree with the submission that the hands of the respondent are tied by virtue of provisions of the Official Languages Act and that they cannot ensure publication of the notification in officials languages of the state.
Notification issued by the Ministry is as per Official languages Act and is published in Hindi and English in the official gazette. Also, there is no provision which mandates the Ministry to publish in vernacular languages. As per, Article 343 (1) of the Constitution of India, the official language of the Union, is Hindi, in Devanagari script. As far as the publication of the notification in official gazette is considered it is only in Hindi and English.
The bench observed that if such hypertechnical stand is being taken by the Central government during the period of the pandemic, they will say that no further action shall be taken.
The Ministry had directed the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities to translate the draft notification in the local languages and give wide publicity. As regards extension of time for filing objections beyond the deadline of August 11, Central Government Counsel Shiva Kumar
sought time for receiving instruction from the Ministry.
Instead of making amends, now the Central government has filed a statement of objection contending that it is under no obligation to publish draft notification in official languages of the states. Placing reliance on the Official Language Act, the stand taken by Union of India is that publication only in Hindi and English language is valid and not required to publish in other languages. Also, time to file objections is extended only till August 11. Hence, the Central Government must take immediate steps to ensure that wide publicity to the notification is given by publishing the same in official languages of all the States. If the publicity is to be given hereafter, hardly a few days time will be available to the citizens to submit objections under Clause (a) of sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. Therefore, the Central Government will have to consider extending the time for submitting objections.