The Central Government has informed the Delhi High Court today that it has translated the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 to all the 22 vernacular languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan directed that 60 days be given from the date of online publication of the translated versions of the draft for filing of objections by stakeholders.

The Bench was hearing the Centre's review petition against its order directing the Environment Ministry to translate the draft EIA notification in all the 22 languages within 10 days of the order and publish the same on official websites.

The High Court had passed the order on June 30, 2020, in a PIL filed by Vikrant Tongat, seeking publication of the notification in all vernacular languages and also an extension of the deadline for receiving public comments on it.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma told the court that in compliance of the order, the draft notification has been translated.

Counsel for the petitioner informed the Court that while the translation has taken place, the documents were yet to be published online in order to facilitate the process of filing of objections.

The procedural part is in the hands of some officer. It will be uploaded, the Court observed as it said that the main task of translation has already been completed.

However, it added, we expect from the Union of India and the agencies of Union of India that the order of the Court shall be complied with in true spirit and letters.

The court also allowed the petitioner's application seeking 60 days to file objections to the draft policy after the same is uploaded.

Now that respondent (Centre) has already translated the notification in all languages as stated in the order dated June 30, 2020. We, therefore, direct the Union of India to grant 60 days from the date of uploading of documents for filing of objections by concerned stakeholders, the Court ordered.

In January, the Court had said that it could not understand why the Centre was vehemently resisting its order to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment in all 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution.

It had stated that the government would have to understand the objections in local languages to the draft EIA and therefore, "what was the harm in translating it in all the 22 languages?".

People in remote areas are "our citizens" who need to be heard and may not understand the draft if published only in English and Hindi, the Court had said to the Environment Ministry which had initially raised objections in respect of translating the draft EIA in the vernacular languages.

The June 2020 order was initially challenged by the Ministry before the Supreme Court which allowed the government to withdraw its appeal and instead file a review petition before the Delhi High Court.

The Supreme Court had also stayed the proceedings in the contempt plea filed for non-compliance of the June 30, 2020 direction of the High Court.

Subsequently, the Ministry filed a review petition on the grounds that official documents are required to be published only in Hindi and English.

Cases seeking similar reliefs had been filed before some of the High Courts, including the Kerala High Court.

With PTI input