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10th September Current Affairs

Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020

In News:

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs have raised several concerns about the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020 and have asked the government how its provisions correspond with India’s obligations under international law.

Who are UN Special Rapporteurs?

They are independent experts working on behalf of the United Nations. They work on a country or a thematic mandate specified by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The three important issues raised by UN Special Rapporteurs are:

The draft notification includes under Clauses 14 (2) and 26 an exemption of several large industries and projects from public consultation — as part of the environment impact assessment process — such as chemical manufacturing and petroleum products; building, construction and area development; inland waterways and expansion or widening of national highways.

These exemptions are unwarranted given the substantial environmental and human rights negative impacts that can arise from projects in these areas.

The draft notification does not require publication of information or holding of public consultation for projects labelled by the Central government as ‘involving strategic considerations’.

The draft does not provide clarification regarding the criteria for categorizing projects ‘strategic’ by the Central Government and hence could be open to excessively broad interpretations.

There is a clause on “post-facto clearance”. These are for projects that have started without obtaining the required environmental clearances or permissions.

This practice contradicts basic principles related to the environmental rule of law.

Background:

Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, India notified its first EIA norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources.

Every development project has been required to go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance ever since.

The 1994 EIA notification was replaced with a modified draft in 2006.

Earlier this year, the government redrafted it again to incorporate the amendments and relevant court orders issued since 2006, and to make the EIA “process more transparent and expedient.”

 Other contentious provisions in the draft:

It shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days.

It reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.

It also allows the declaration of some areas as “economically sensitive areas” without a public hearing or environmental clearance, and several “red” and “orange”-classified toxic industries could now operate as close as 0-5 km from a Protected Area in “callous disregard” for forests.

The increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects (50 years versus 30 years currently) and river valley projects (15 years versus 10 years currently) raises the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.

What is bud drug?

In News:

The Narcotics Control Bureau took Rhea’s brother Showik Chakraborty and Sushant Singh Rajput house manager Samuel Miranda to question in connection with a “bud” supply racket. Sushant Singh Rajput is a Bollywood actor who committed suicide in his home recently.

What is Bud?

Bud refers to smoking elements of Marijuana plant. On the other hand, weed, colloquially called ganja, is made from the extract of Marijuana leaves. The Tetrahydrocannabinol levels in bud are much higher as compared to weed. The cost of bud is very high and is between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 per gram.

How is Bud different from Hydrophonic Weed?

Hydrophonic weed is different from bud. It refers to soilless medium of cultivation of marijuana. The weed is grown at home in the presence of LED lights. The potent of the hydrophonic weed is more than that of the usual weed.

Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985:

The act does not differentiate between arts of the same plant-Cannabis. Therefore, bud under the act has commercial quantity upward limit of 20 kg. The GoI has plans to amend the act as none would keep 20 kgs of bud in one place.

The act was amended three times in 1998, 2001 and 2014. The 2014 creates a class of medicines called Essential Narcotic Drugs.

Source of Bud:

Bud is sourced from Spain, Amsterdam and North California according to the officials of Narcotics Control Bureau.

Narcotics Control Bureau:

It is the chief law enforcement agency of India that is responsible for fighting drug trafficking and abuse. It was created in 1986 to enable the implementation of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

National Policy on Narcotic Drugs:

The policy is based on Article 47 of the Indian Constitution. It brings about prohibition of consumption, intoxicating drugs injurious to health except for medicinal purposes.

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

In News:

A judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has recused from hearing the anticipatory bail application moved by former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, in connection with the case of disappearance and murder of a man in year 1991.

The Judge, while recusing himself from the case referred the matter to the Chief Justice for listing.

What is a recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

General Grounds for Recusal:

Motions to recuse or disqualify judges and other adjudicators have been made for all sorts of reasons.

Most commonly such motions are predicated upon a claim that the judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.

But such motions are also made on many other grounds, including the challenged judge’s:

Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.

Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.

Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.

Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.

Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.

Besides, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

Need of the hour:

Definite rules need to be framed in this regard.

Judges should express their decisions in writing while recusing.