The Centre through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has opposed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Delhi High Court seeking extension of the notice period to the public, in draft notification 2021, regarding the conservation of topsoil and natural resources until October 31 or such further period till the COVID-19 lockdown persists.
The affidavit filed by MoEFCC states that "The notice period of 60 days to public for furnishing objections or suggestions regarding Respondent's Draft notification on 'ash utilization by coal or lignite based thermal power plants' expired on June 21, 2021, rendering the present petition infructuous."
The Centre also submitted that a review of inputs or comments received from stakeholder ministries, departments and organisations was undertaken in the ministry. After undertaking the review, the draft notification had been revised for making it effective for achieving the objective of 100 per cent utilization of ash from thermal power plants in an eco-friendly manner.
The affidavit also submitted that two rounds of consultative meetings were held in the ministry to obtain views or comment then proposed draft notification from various stakeholders to further strengthen the provisions to achieve the objective of 100 per cent utilisation of ash generated from thermal power plants in eco-friendly ways.
The Delhi High Court had earlier issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL stated that when freedom of the general public is affected because of imposition of lockdown by states and union territories, issuance of draft notification dealing with a very sensitive issue like conservation and protection of natural resources and topsoil at such a time is not only uncalled but also unwanted.
Hearing in the matter is scheduled to come for hearing on Tuesday by the bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.
The petitioner Sanjay Kumar, a practising advocate represented by lawyers Nandita Dhar and Gaurav Kumar Bansal in the matter.
"At the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when most of the states and union territories have imposed lockdown, the intention of the Respondent to change its policy regarding conservation of topsoil and natural resources of the country, by way of issuing draft Notification dated April 22, 2021, is not only questionable but also casts serious apprehension on its timing", stated in the plea.
"As the draft notification is not only directly connected with conservation and protection of topsoil and natural resources, but will also impact the business of lakhs of industries dealing with fly ash. It is essential to extend the time limit for forwarding objections and suggestions on such an issue", the plea read.
The petition also sought direction from the respondent, to make translated copies of the draft notification available across the country in the official vernacular languages as provided in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India.