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Amend ‘deemed extension’ rule for mining leases, says Shah panel

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Feb 1:

justice shah
The Justice MB Shah Commission inquiring into the multi-crore mining scam in the state has recommended amendment in the deemed extension clause, which is the main source of corruption as it allows miners to continue extracting the minerals even without the requisite permissions.
“Rule 24A is required to be suitably amended. If the renewal application is not decided two years from the date of application, the application would stand rejected. The procedure for grant of renewal should be simplified and there should be one committee consisting of secretaries of all departments for disposal of said application,” advocated the commission.
“There is gross misuse of deemed refusal and deemed extension of both the provisions of renewal of leases (before 27 September 1994 and after) under rule 24 A of MCR, 1960. This casual and negative approach has caused dearly to state exchequer in the form of hundred crores of stamp duty and others,” pointed out the Commission.
It also maintained that for years, sometimes decades, together, renewal applications of mining leases were kept pending even as private companies kept extracting lakhs and lakhs of metric tonnes of minerals from these mines.
While the miners operated mines under deemed extension according to 24 (a) 6 of MC rule, a new lease was not signed for years allowing them to extract minerals without executing any lease deed and having any clearances.
“Number of departments dealing with the subject and inherited bureaucratic methodology imbued with corruption, note sheet making, file pushing and nonresponsive and passing on the bucks to others are the reasons for the delay in disposal of renewal application which is difficult to understand and cannot be approved,” said the report.
It is to be noted that the state government has incurred loss of stamp duty from the mine owners due to the deemed extension provision under which they operated their mines for years together. While the miners paid every due including royalty, income tax and sales tax to the government, the government lost money that would have accrued to it by way of stamp duty.
According to the report of the commission, the renewal of mining lease (RML) applications of many miners were kept pending for years together. While eight leases were kept pending for 15 to 20 years, 35 leases for 10 to 15 years, 43 leases for 5 to 10 years and 14 leases for less than 05 years.
As many as 147 cases of renewal applications were not decided. “The sufferer is the government and such long delay breeds corruption at all levels. All the aforesaid 147 lessees continued in possession of the lease hold property without execution of the lease deeds.”
The Commission further says that because of the non-implementation of the statutory provisions, the eco system, forest, environment, roads, natural streams, the wilds and human beings have been affected to an extent of irreparability.
What could be more bizarre that even though the Odisha High Court had directed the government to dispose of all applications pertaining to renewal of mining leases within three months on December 21, 2012, it is yet to dispose of the cases allowing the miners to loot the natural resources, ask observers.