Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Apr 21:
In an order that could spell trouble for the Odisha government, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central and the state governments as well as the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to formally explain their position vis a vis allegations in a PIL that widespread mining illegalities were committed in Odisha.
Following the apex court order, there are apprehensions that Odisha may face the fate of Goa and Karnataka which had to go for temporary ban on mining before being allowed resumption of operation under a set of safeguard.
After hearing arguments of senior lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan on a PIL filed by an NGO Common Cause, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices A.K. Patnaik, S.S. Nijjar and FMI Kalifullah today issued notices to Central and Odisha governments and the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to respond to the charges within four weeks.
The Bench asked the CEC to make a submission on the probable interim orders that the Court could issue to deal with the problems posed by large scale illegal mining in Odisha.
While listing the next hearing for April 28, the Bench sought a report from the CEC on the illegalities involved such as mining without environment clearance, forest clearance and the misuse of the provision of deemed extension.
The CEC will now have to provide the apex court with a list of mines involved in these illegalities.
It may be mentioned here that Karnataka had to face a mining ban forcing the industry to comply with certain obligations on Reclamation and Rehabilitation (R&R) before being allowed to resume operation. In case of Karnataka the process took over two years while in Goa the ban was lifted after more than a year’s time.
Backed by stout arguments by the Forest Bench amicus curiae Harish N. Salve, the top court while passing the order specifically rejected the contention of the mining associations that the court should not interfere in the matter as it was for the government and Parliament to take a view on the report of Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry.
The Shah Commission of Inquiry has given a scathing account of the massive mineral loot in Odisha and indicted the state government.
The report is yet to be tabled in the Parliament.
After a detailed study that included hearings, field visits and examination of documents, the Justice Shah Commission submitted a 5 volume report on the illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore in Odisha.
In its report the Commission has strongly recommended open auction for mining leases to maximize revenues and to maintain transparency. It has also called for a cap on mining in the interest of environmental sustainability and inter-generational equity.
Significantly, the Commission, while calling upon the state to immediately implement its recommendations and clean up the mess, has concluded that “All modes of illegal mining are being committed in the State of Odisha”.