The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a notice on a petition challenging the Centre’s notification of the formation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for environmental evaluation of thermal power and coal mining projects.
A bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the respondents and dismissed the case on January 22, 2021, after hearing the petition filed by petitioner’s advocate Ritvik Dutta.
According to the petitioner Manoj Mishra, on July 10, 2020, the retired Indian Forest Service officer of India, through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, restructured the EAC for environmental assessment of thermal power and coal mining projects under environmental impact. Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.
The notification states that the government has appointed a total of nine ‘non-officers’ as members of the EAC and the remaining six are officers.
The petition filed through advocate Srishti Agnihotri stated that as per the notification, the EAC has not appointed any ‘expert’ despite the compulsory of ‘experts’. The EIA notification makes no reference to ‘officers’ and ‘non-officers’, and any such appointment or classification violates the statutory scheme. The order states that a total of 15 members have been appointed, of which nine are ‘non-officials’, who are completely foreign to the statutory scheme, further added to the petition.
It has also been stated that these appointments are due to the many precedents set by the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court on the appointment of experts from EAC / other specialist environmental bodies. The notification states that members of the body are required to be experts with certain educational qualifications and relevant experience in specific areas / disciplines, including inter alia, environmental quality and project management in related fields.
The petition states that thus the qualification of a chairperson is more than mere expertise. Chairpersons should be ‘outstanding and experienced environmental policy experts’.
The petition announces the notification of the formation of the EAC and a declaration that the respondents’ appointments are illegal. It also states that the EAC has been improperly constituted as per the July 10, 2020 notification for thermal power and coal mining projects.
The newly appointed chairman and other members do not meet the prescribed statutory qualifications. Thus, it is mandatory that during the pendency of this petition, the EAC does not take any final decision on thermal power and coal mining project.
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