SC seeks Centre’s response on PIL against Notification on Retrospective ECs to Projects

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a PIL assailing its 2017 notification allowing ongoing projects to seek environmental clearances with retrospective effect.

The March 14, 2017, notification of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) permits projects to carry out operations without getting environmental clearances and provides a six-month time period to alleged violators to apply for retrospective or “ex post facto clearance”.

“We will issue notice and tag this with the pending one,” a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra said after taking note of the submissions of senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for One Earth One Life, an NGO.

The notice modified the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, which had mandated prior approvals for all projects.

The PIL also challenged a July 2021 office memorandum of the ministry that issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the identification and handling of violation cases under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

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Allowing existing projects to seek ex post facto or retrospective environmental clearance “violated the fundamental tenets of environmental jurisprudence”, the plea said.

The bench also directed the plea be tagged with an earlier pending petition of a similar matter.

The plea sought the issuance of a writ “restraining” the ministry “from using any notification or office memorandum permitting ex post facto environmental clearance”.

It said, “The grant of ex post facto environmental clearances (ECs) nullifies the very intent of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of 2006.” 

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