By Debananda Medak
Guwahati: The Indigenous Lawyers Association of India on Tuesday urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to withdraw the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2020, which it described as unconstitutional and 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 per cent of the country’s forest cover is in India’s tribal districts and North East India.
Association president Dilip Kanti Chakma said, “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 the 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.”
Chakma further argued that 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.
“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,” the president added.
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