Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020: The Account of Delhi Police’s Uncorroborated Character Assassination of Environment Protection Groups

Recently, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Delhi Police blocked the website of Fridays For Future India, There Is No Earth B and Let India Breathe. Explicitly, the Police over sighted their actions to be a threat to the country’s peace and sovereignty. Thus, environmental groups faced consequences for going against the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2020.

EIA Notification 2020 – Background

India was a party to the Stockholm Declaration on Environment from 1972. Additionally, our country enacted laws to control water (1974) and air (1981) pollution soon enough. However, the government realized the need to enact an Environment (Protection) Act to regulate environmental concerns only in 1986; that is, in the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984).

Environment Impact Assessment stood notified in 1994 under the said Act of 1986. The norms under EIA thus regulated the functioning of every development project in the early years of liberalisation of the Indian Economy. In order to obtain Environmental Clearance, one needed to go through EIA. Therefore, it regulated the activities of the development projects that accessed, utilised, and affected (polluted) the natural resources.

Thereafter, the government updated and amended the EIA of 1994 vide the EIA Notification of 2006. This year, i.e. 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) redrafted the EIA norms of 2006 under the garb of making them ‘more transparent and expedient’. The draft was left open for suggestions and objections, especially in terms of the orders by Delhi and Karnataka high courts.

Thus, began the outrage visible in the number of objections that the draft has received. Besides, environmental groups such as the ‘Fridays For Future India’, have raised their concerns widely against the new draft by engaging more citizens of the country.

The Consequences

Notably, the Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar objected to the authorities as he was getting multiple Emails related to EIA 2020. Fridays For Future India launched a campaign to stimulate mass public engagement in the consultation on the EIA notification. As a result, the Minister received the said mails.

Consequently, the Police directed the Internet Service provider of the Fridays For Future (FFF) India’s Website Domain to block their website. To explain, under section 18 of the UAPA act, reporting and imparting objectionable contents is a punishable offense. Hence, the police claimed that the website outlines offensive content, which apparently amounts to a threat to the law and order in the country. Explicitly, FFF’s campaign was elucidated as a terrorist activity.

FFF India on the Decision of Blocking the Websites

Fridays For Future India cross-questioned the police. They claimed that the decision of blocking the website is baseless. Meanwhile, they also denied the projection of any illegal activities. The organisation demanded the police to withdraw its notice so that the website could be restored.

“This constitutes a very worrying form of censorship where certain provisions of the UAPA are being cited by the police indicating illegality that just isn’t there in these cases.”

– APAR GUPTA, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNET FREEDOM FOUNDATION, CONSULTANT OF FFF INDIA

The organisation told the media that the police is a puppet in the hands of the government. FFF claims that their mails did not hurt anybody’s sentiments or involved any criminal projections.

 “Around July 14, we were shown a notice sent to Big Rock, Fridays For Future’s domain provider, by the Delhi police. FFF consulted lawyers. Based on their advice, a representation was sent to the Delhi police which indicates that the notice, which has led to the website being blocked, was completely illegal.”

– Gupta added.

A member of the organisation mentioned that the current EIA notification yields nothing to the environment; that it rather it eliminates the current safeguards. The organisation gained widespread regard as it provided a structural support to convey public opinion. Besides, it was up to the people whether they wished to send the mail to the concerned authority. Meaning, FFF India did not bound individuals to send the mails. Hence, Section 18 of the UAPA Act was held illegal by FFF India.

The Admission of a Mistake

Interestingly, the Delhi Police withdrew its complaint under the controversial UAPA Act against FFF India. It stated that the Police filed the complaint under UAPA mistakenly. The Police then issued Notices under the Information Technology Act. The entire issue garnered enough attention, both to the cause and the Police’s actions.

As of now, the websites of Fridays For Future India and Let India Breathe stands restored. Meanwhile, the website of There Is No Earth B stands partially accessible.