Has the Environment Ministry blocked its Parivesh website in violation of Section 4 of the RTI Act?


Shri Rajiv Gauba

Cabinet Secretary

Government of India

Dear Shri Gauba,

I find that the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MEFCC) has blocked information hitherto available at its Parivesh web portal. Some news reports have also confirmed this.

Does MEFCC know that, under Section 4 of the Right To Information Act (RTIA), it has the statutory obligation to make a suo moto public disclosure on all matters of public interest? The genesis of this is Article 19 of the Constitution which has conferred on the citizen the “right to know” about the functioning of all public authorities. MEFCC’s contention that, if anyone wishes to have information, they should file individual applications under RTIA, betrays either its ignorance of RTIA’s ambit or its deliberate attempt to keep the public in the dark about what concerns them.

It appears that MEFCC’s intention in taking this extraordinary measure is to “protect the interests of the project developers“! If this is so, does it imply that MEFCC has abandoned its primary role of safeguarding the public trust, yielding to pressures from project developers?

The core value of the Environment (Protection) Act is to involve the public fully in assessing the environmental impact of a project at every stage because it is the public that is at the receiving end of any project and, therefore, is the best judge of its adverse impacts. The environmental Impact appraisal process should take place in full public glare and be subject to public accountability.

It is bizarre that MEFCC should block information from the public against all canons of environmental governance and openly take the side of the project developer.

Of late, there have been a series of such regressive changes introduced by the present government to bypass the Constitutional authorities, violate Constitutional values and virtually become a spokesperson for corporate interests.

For example, the present government violated the requirement of Article 338A by not consulting the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes (NCST) before introducing a Bill to make sweeping changes in the Forest (Conservation) Act and Rules, to the detriment of the interests of the tribals and in outright violation of the provisions of the PESA and Forest Rights Act (FRA).

Apparently, under pressure from a corporate house, the Mines Ministry amended the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act to revive private mining of beach sands, which contain highly strategic atomic minerals, which would open the floodgates to clandestine export of Monazite, the primary raw material for Thorium, the fuel for India’s future nuclear development programme. That such a regressive measure, going against the national interest, should be taken without a discussion in the Parliament, amply demonstrates the unwillingness of the government for an open discussion, for reasons best known to it.

These are but a few examples of how the present government seems to be afraid of divulging important details to the public, in clear violation of the letter and the spirit of Article 19 of the Constitution.

Even at this belated stage, I demand that MEFCC be advised to revoke the ill-advised decision to block its Parivesh portal and, instead, fulfil its obligation under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act by displaying all information in the public domain. relating to the process of environmental impact assessment of projects.


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India


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