NEW DELHI―At least five controversial amendments to key environmental laws and regulations were made at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, publicly available information, legal records and government documents accessed exclusively by HuffPost India shows.
Four of these amendments, which significantly weakened existing environmental norms and safeguards, were implemented only to be stayed by the courts. The fifth—a proposed reboot of the legal framework underpinning environmental jurisprudence in India—ran foul of a parliamentary committee before it was executed.
Among the most recent of these amendments was announced by Modi himself on November 2, 2018 at an official event for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The amendment, described as a “Deepawali gift” by the Prime Minister, was stayed by the Delhi High Court early this year.
On 12 February 2019, HuffPost India revealed how the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) aided the real estate lobby by pushing the urban development and other ministries to draft new building bye laws with watered down environment clearance procedures. These new bye-laws were crystallised in a notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in December 2016, and struck by the National Green Tribunal in December 2017.
Court records and official documents now show the environment ministry made another attempt to pass two similar notifications, with some minor changes, in November 2018. The November 2018 notifications were stayed by the Delhi High Court within a fortnight of its implementation after civil society groups challenged it.
The documents also reveal how Modi provided direct “guidance” to the then environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who consistently pushed for the dilution of green norms and kept the Prime Minister personally informed about the minutiae of controversial changes to environmental laws and regulations that were being discussed and...