The Delhi High Court on Tuesday extended the time for filing objections to draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 till August 11. The decision comes after the Court on Monday said there was “ambiguity” in the Centre’s decision extending time till June 30 for giving objections and suggestions to its draft EIA notification of 2020, terming it as “unfair” to the public.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said there was ambiguity in the Environment Ministry’s May 8 notification, extending the time for giving objections and suggestions to the draft EIA 2020, as it mentions a further period of 60 days and also that the window closes on June 30.

‘There was an error apparent on the face of the notification issued by the government wherein the notice period for ling objections was extended to 60 days’, the court said

The ministry, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya and central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, told the bench that intent was to extend the period only till June 30.

The petition by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad claimed the May 8 notification states that the period for inviting objections has been extended by another 60 days, but it is not clear as to when the initial period of 60 days commenced.

“If the sixty-day period commences on the date of the draft notification, i.e., March 23, 2020, the extended date of expiry will be July 18, 2020. If the date of notification in the Gazette (i.e. April 11, 2020) is taken as the start of the sixty-day period, the extended date of expiry will be August 9, 2020,” the petition has said.

It also stated that at the same time a contradiction arises in the extension notification as an end date of June 30, 2020 is specified, which is less than sixty days from the date of issuance of the extension notification May 8.

“Thus, the extension notification is unclear and contradictory,” it claimed.

The bench on June 26 had asked the Centre to clarify on the next date as to what would be the last date for giving objections/suggestions.

The petition has sought that the period for receiving public opinion regarding the draft notification be extended till September 30 or till such time the lockdown remains.

The draft EIA 2020, according to the petition, 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 has said.