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Opinion

Delhi HC Issues Center for Energy Environmental Assessment Notice, Mining Project Notification

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition challenging the notification of the Center constituting the Expert Assessment Committee (EAC) for the environmental assessment of thermal power and coal mining projects.

The court of Judge DN Patel and Judge Prateek Jalan after hearing the presentation of the petitioner’s lawyer, Ritwick Dutta, issued a notice to the defendants and scheduled the matter for January 22, 2021.

According to petitioner Manoj Mishra, a retired official from the Forest Services of India, Union of India through the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on July 10, 2020, reconstituted the EAC for the environmental assessment of projects of thermal energy and coal mining under Environmental Impact. Assessment Notice (EIA), 2006.

The notification shows that the government has appointed a total of nine “non-officials” as members of the EAC and the remaining six are civil servants, according to the statement.

The statement submitted through attorney Srishti Agnihotri stated that, according to the notification, no “experts” have been appointed despite the mandatory requirement that the EAC must be made up of “experts”. The EIA notice does not make any reference to “officials” and “non-officials”, and any such appointment or classification invalidates the legal scheme. The order establishes that a total of 15 members have been appointed, of which nine are “non-civil servants”, which is completely outside the legal scheme, the reason added.

It also stated that these appointments go against various precedents set by the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court on the appointment of experts to the EACs / other expert environmental bodies. The notification requires that the members of such bodies be experts with certain educational qualifications and relevant experience in specific fields / disciplines, including, among others, Environmental Quality and Project Management in relevant sectors.

The motive added that therefore the qualifications for a president are more than mere experience. The president must be a “prominent and experienced expert in environmental policy.”

The plea sought the annulment of the notice constituting the EAC and a declaration that the appointments of the defendants are illegal. It also says that the EAC for thermal power and coal mining projects has been incorrectly constituted in the notification dated July 10, 2020.

The newly appointed president and other members do not meet the prescribed legal qualifications. Therefore, it is imperative that during the processing of this petition, the EAC does not make any final decision on a thermal power and coal mining project, the pleading stated.

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