A public hearing is the only medium in the environmental clearance process through which people can interact directly with government officials and the project proponents regarding project-related concerns. The relevance of public hearings—underlining principles of “democratic participatory governance,” “sustainable development” and “natural justice” for people—can never be undermined. However, this single procedural step is at the centre of so many legal disputes in the Indian courts (Supreme Court and high courts), and the National Green Tribunal had to repeatedly step in and clarify its importance in public policy and the environmental clearance process. This article reviews a series of judicial and quasi-judicial decisions on the question of the public hearing process in India.
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