Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 9:
Opposition parties Congress and BJP have slammed the Odisha government for extending the lease validity of some mines, which were found to have violated rules both by the MB Shah Commission and Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC).
“The Supreme Court is going to take a final decision on the suggestion of the CEC for cancellation of two leases and imposition of heavy penalties on other mines. But surprisingly, the state government has renewed their mining leases before that. This is how the government is bypassing legal obligation,” said PCC chief Prasad Harichandan.
On the other hand, the BJP has accused the state government of gross misuse of power as it took a decision on a matter which is subjudice.
“This government had not allowed a debate on the chit fund scam in the Assembly under the pretext that the matter was subjudice. But now they have decided to allow operation of these mines while the matter is pending before the court,” said Basant Panda, BJP legislature party head.
The state government, however, refuted charges of wrongdoing by the opposition and said it will abide by the judgements pronounced by the Supreme Court.
“We have inserted a clause in the lease agreement that the mine owners will have to abide by whatever decision the Supreme Court takes on the pending cases. Let us wait for the judgement. There is nothing wrong in renewal of mines leases,” said Prafulla Kumar Mallick, Minister for Steel and Mines.
The state government earlier this week had signed lease extension deed with 10 miners and is in the process of signing similar deeds with other mine lease holders as per the provision of the recently amended Mines Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, 2015.
These mines were asked to halt operation in May last year by the Supreme Court as they were operating without a valid mining lease. Besides, some of these mines were found to have violated air and water pollution rules and several mining related rules such as extraction of ore beyond permissible limits.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold further hearing on a case filed by NGO, Common Cause, seeking a ban on mining activities in the state on May 11.
The Shah Commission of inquiry, appointed to look into illegal mining cases, had recommended initiation of a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against these miners.