The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a PIL challenging appointments made to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for assessing environmental impact of thermal power and coal mining projects. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notices to the Environment Ministry and four members of the EAC whose appointments to the committee have been opposed in the petition filed by environment activist and retired Indian Forest Services officer Manoj Mishra.
In the plea filed through advocates Ritwick Dutta and Shristi Agnihotri, Mishra has challenged the ministry’s July 10 notification constituting the EAC for environmental appraisal of thermal power and coal mining projects, claiming that no expert has been appointed to the 15-member committee. According to his petition, the notification shows that nine non-officials’ and six officials have been appointed to the EAC, but no expert as is mandatory under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006.
The petition has contended that the EIA notification does not make any reference to officials’ and non-officials’. It has also claimed that the four members of the EAC, whose appointments have been specifically challenged in the plea, do not meet the criteria laid down in the 2006 EIA notification, and two of them also have conflict of interests as they are serving on the board of public sector companies who are into coal mining and coal-fired power plants.
One of the four, Gururaj P Kundargi, has been appointed as chairman of the EAC, according to the petition which has claimed that he is on the board of various public sector companies, some of which are seeking environment clearances for coal mining or thermal power projects. Mishra has contended that serving on board of such companies would not make a person an expert to be appointed as a member or chairman of the EAC.