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Environment Ministry urged to withdraw constitutional Draft EIA Notification 2020, an instrument to grab tribal lands and forests

NEW DELHI, 30 JUNE 2020: The Indigenous Lawyers Association of India (ILAI) in its submission to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change today urged to withdraw the unconstitutional the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2020 which it described as an instrument to grab tribal lands and forests.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its “India State of Forest Report 2019″ states that about 60 percent of the country’s forest cover is in India’s tribal districts and the North East India.

”An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification is an executive order and it is settled legal proposition that an executive order cannot override, amend or alter or supersede statutory laws. Section 4 of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 [PESA Act) and Sections Section 3(2) and 4(2)(e) of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 [FRA] make it mandatory to seek consent of the Gram Sabhas for starting projects and the same has been upheld by the Supreme Court in its judgement dated 18.04.2013 in W.P.(C) No.180/2011 in the case of Orissa Mining Corporation Versus Ministry of Environment & Forest & Others, also known as the Vedanta case. The Ministry of Environment and Forest must remember that it is also a settled legal proposition that what cannot be done directly cannot also be done indirectly and it must not attempt to legislate through executive orders on issues which are not in its mandate as the PESA Act and the FRA are the exclusive domain of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.”  – stated Mr Dilip Kanti Chakma, President of Indigenous Lawyers Association.

“The Draft EIA, 2020 without defining what constitute “national defence and security” or “strategic considerations” exempts them from environmental clearance and it is arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable and therefore, unconstitutional.” – further stated Mr Chakma.

“Unless the draft EIA 2020 complies with constitutional propriety, its constitutional validity shall be subject to challenge before the Supreme Court because allowing an executive order to override, amend, alter or supersede statutory laws amounts to inviting executive anarchy over the rule of law.” – cautioned Mr Chakma.

Background: The existing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006 broadly categorized all projects and activities into two categories – Category A and Category B. But the Draft EIA Notification 2020 seeks to categorize them into A, B1 and B2 and further divided B2 projects into those required to be placed before the Appraisal Committee and those not required to be placed before the Appraisal Committee. Category B1 projects are further divided into B1 (attracting General Conditions) and B1 (not attracting General Conditions). Several projects listed under Category ‘B2’ are to be exempted from the process of scoping, preparation of environment impact assessment (EIA) report, and public consultation and further, unless specifically mentioned in the Schedule Category ‘B2’ projects shall not be required to be placed before the Appraisal Committee is nothing but to do away with the EIA. [Ends]

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[For any further information or clarifications, please contact Mr Dilip Chakma at 7406314043. The ILAI’s submission is available at http://www.indigenouslawyers.org/latest/ilai-calls-for-either-withdrawal-of-the-draft-eia-notification-2020-or-full-compliance-with-pesa-and-fra/ ]

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