Il­le­gal Min­ing to At­tract 100% Penalty, Rules SC

SC gives de­fin­i­tive rul­ing in case on il­le­gal iron, man­ganese min­ing in Odisha

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

Sa­man­waya Rau­tray & Meera Mo­hanty

New Delhi|Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day said il­le­gal min­ing — in­clud­ing ab­sence of manda­tory for­est or en­vi­ron­ment clear­ances and air-wa­ter pol­lu­tion norm vi­o­la­tions — would in­cur 100% penalty on the min­eral. Though the Mines and Min­er­als (De­vel­op­ment and Reg­u­la­tion) De­vel­op­ment Act, 1957, pro­vides for this, the apex court’s rul­ing in a case in­volv­ing il­le­gal iron and man­ganese min­ing in Odisha sheds fur­ther clar­ity on the issue. A bench of Jus­tices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta re­fused to coun­te­nance a lesser com­pen­satory fine for of­fend­ers in Keon­jhar, Sun­der­garh and Mayurb­hanj dis­tricts. “There can be no com­pro­mise on the quan­tum of com­pen­sa­tion — it should be 100%. The de­fault­ing lessee must bear the con­se­quences of the il­le­gal­ity and not be ben­e­fited by pock­et­ing 70% (the cen­tral em­pow­ered com­mit­tee or CEC had sug­gested only 30% re­cov­ery) of the il­le­gally mined ore.”

For now, though, the court has not or­dered a CBI probe into il­le­gal min­ing in Odisha or limit min­ing, as it had done in Goa and Kar­nataka.

“This is epochal,” said ad­vo­cate Anand Varma. “The court has es­tab­lished a clear, un­am­bigu­ous con­nec­tion between min­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal laws. Any­one vi­o­lat­ing any as­pect of en­vi­ron­men­tal and for­est laws would be li­able to com­pen­sate for il­le­gal min­ing un­der Sec­tion 21(5) of the MMDR Act. Min­ers would not be able to seg­re­gate min­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pli­ance as in the past.”

Stick­ing to the Act, the bench said, “Sec­tion 21(5) of the MMDR Act is ap­pli­ca­ble when any per­son raises, with­out any law­ful author­ity, any min­eral from any land. The state gov­ern­ment is en­ti­tled to re­cover the min­eral raised or, where the min­eral has al­ready been dis­posed of, the price thereof, as com­pen­sa­tion.”

The apex court has not yet or­dered a CBI probe into il­le­gal min­ing in Odisha or put a cap on min­ing

HUGE DIF­FER­ENCE IN PENALTY

The Odisha gov­ern­ment, in Novem­ber 2010, had sent no­tices to Tata Steel, SAIL and all pri­vate min­ers to­talling .₹ 59,000-61,000 crore. The CEC had es­ti­mated ex­cesses adding up to .₹ 17,576.16 crore at a weighted av­er­age price of min­er­als, as per the Indian Bu­reau of Mines. It had rec­om­mended a fine of 30%, which worked out to less than .₹ 7,000 crore, and did not cover min­ing sans for­est clear­ance. The SC’s rec­om­men­da­tions will put the fine at a ball­park of .₹ 25,000 crore for Odisha’s de­fault­ing min­ers, to be paid from 2000-01 and de­posited by De­cem­ber 31 this year.

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