06 Jan 2121

Supreme Court allows violators to pay compensation by selling already mined ores under the supervision of an independent committee

Case : Common Cause v. Union of India & ors. Interlocutory Application Nos. 131281 and 131288 of 2019

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice S. A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna, Justice V. Ramasubramanian

Decided on : 06 Jan 2121

Relevant Statutes

Sections 8A(6) and 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957

Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 (MMDR Act)

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1st Application

1. One Mr. Suresh Chandra Padhee was the mining leaseholder in respect of Banspani Iron Ore and Manganese Mins and the Gurubeda Iron Ore Mines.

2. In terms of the amended Section 8A(6) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the lease stood extended till 31.03.2020.

3. The Government demanded compensation for excess production.

4. The applicant claimed to have already deposited a sum of Rs.1,33,17,910/- in respect of Banspani Mines and a sum of Rs.1,40,00,000/- in respect of Gurubeda Mines. Petitioner seeks permission to remove and sell the ore already mined and lying at the site so that the compensation amount could be paid to the Government.

2nd Application

1. A leaseholder of Oraghat Iron and Manganese Ore Mines in Tehsil Bonai, District Sundergarh, Odisha had a mining lease executed on 06.04.1998 in respect of an area of 25.847 hectares and that as per the Judgment of the Apex Court dated 02.08.2017, he was obliged to make payment of the demand on or before 31.12.2017. However, the applicant could not make payment within the time stipulated on account of various factors and hence, filed an application for condonation of delay and for permission to resume mining operations.

3rd Application

1. Applicant, the holder of a mining lease in respect of Bholbeda Iron Ore Mines over an area of 62.322 hectares. The mining lease deed was executed on 10.06.1983, effective for 20 years up to 09.06.2003. The applicant filed an application for first renewal on 05.06.2002, but when it was pending, Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 came into effect.

2. The applicant was alleged to have mined 32,254 MT of Iron ore in violation of environment clearance and that as per the Judgment of the Apex Court dated 02.08.2017, the same should be compensated under Section 21(5) of the MMDR Act, 2015.

3. The applicant sought permission to sell the stock of minerals lying in the leasehold area and to deposit the sale proceeds directly with the State Government.

Issue of the Case

Whether the interlocutory applications should be allowed?

The Observations of the Court

1st Application

1. The State contended that in respect of Banspani Mines, the last lease period expired on 28.11.1993, and in respect of Gurubeda Mines, the last lease period expired on 04.07.2002. The State Government indicated no having objection to the sale of the already raised mineral.

2. The counsel for the writ petitioner highlighted the likelihood of the applicant misusing even mere permission to sell the existing stock. Therefore, he suggested that the removal of the material and its sale under the supervision of an independent Committee of persons, apart from the State Government officials; which was accepted.

2nd Application

1. The State contended that the applicant’s mining operations were stopped on 01.04.2013 for want of statutory clearances. According to the State, the applicant is not eligible for extension under Section 8A, as he does not possess the forest clearance.

2. Objections of the State show that the applicant has cleared all monetary liabilities and that non-availability of statutory clearances stands as an impediment.

3rd Application

1. From the averments contained in the application, it appears that what is claimed by the applicant to be lying at the mining lease area is less than what is alleged by the State Government to have been mined in violation of environment clearance.

The Decision Held by the Court

1st Application

1. Subject to the supervision of the said Committee, adequately and ably assisted by the concerned authorities of the State of Odisha, the applicant is permitted to sell and remove the material already mined.

2. The Committee shall ensure that no mining operation is undertaken under the cover of this Order. The sale proceeds should go directly to the treasury of the State Government to be adjusted towards compensation.

2nd Application

1. Therefore, these applications are disposed of permitting the State Government to process the application subject to all types of statutory clearances being obtained.

3rd Application

1. The application was allowed permitting the applicant to sell and remove the ore already mined and lying at the site, under the supervision of the aforementioned Committee. The Committee shall be assisted by the concerned authorities of the State and the sale proceeds shall go directly to the treasury of the State Government to be adjusted towards the amount due under Section 21(5) of the MMDR Act, 2015.

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