Odisha Sun times Bureau
New Delhi, Feb 18:
In what could be a relief for both the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha and the UPA government at the Centre, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea challenging the report submitted to the Parliament by the Justice M B Shah Commission set up in 2010 by the Centre to probe illegal mining across the country.
The report of the Commission has been challenged by some mining lease-holders from Odisha, who have claimed they were not heard or given an opportunity to examine the allegations made against them by the state government before adverse findings were recorded against them.
Justice Manmohan, however, refused to pass any orders till he goes through the report in order to see if the claims of the petitioners are tenable.
He asked the petitioners to place on record the portions of the report that they have, along with an affidavit at the next hearing on the matter posted for February 20. “Put what you have on an affidavit and I will hear it on Thursday,” Justice Manmohan said.
During the proceedings, Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra told the court that only the first part of the Commission’s report had been tabled in Parliament.
The petitioners, R B Das and Narayani Sons Pvt Ltd, who hold mining leases for iron ore and manganese in Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts of Odisha, contended that the panel’s report states they have violated the Environment Protection Act and mined minerals without environment clearance.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Parag Tripathi said the adverse findings in the report would affect the reputation of their clients.
The lawyers said the report had been leaked to the media and there is an apprehension that FIRs could be lodged based on the news reports quoting the panel’s findings, as had happened in Goa.
R B Das holds two leases for mining iron ore and manganese in villages Dalpahar and Kundrupani of Keonjhar district while Narayani Sons has licences for mining in villages Surguturia and Raikela in Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts.
The petitioners contended that the panel prepared its report without following the procedure laid out under Commission of Enquiry Act as per which they were entitled to an opportunity to be heard and were provided with the information submitted by the state government against them.
“We were not heard. We were not told what allegations were made against us by the state government. The Commission also refused to give us the information against us that was given to it by the state,” the lawyers for the petitioners said.