Odisha court notice to government on mining rules amendment
The Odisha High Court has issued notice to the state and central governments in connection with a petition seeking a stay on the operation of a recent amendment to the existing mining concession rules.
The high court bench headed by Chief Justice V.G. Gowda Thursday posted the matter after 10 days in order to seek a response from the central and state governments.
The notice was in response to a public interest litigation filed by Biswajit Mohanty, a board member of the anti-corruption group Transparency International India, challenging the amendment, which was notified by the central government July 26.
The central government, Mohanty said Friday, restricted the ambit of illegal mining to only mining operations outside the lease area.
The definition came days after the Odisha government issued notices to over 100 mining companies seeking penalty of more than Rs.70,000 crore for extracting ore in excess of their stipulated limit during the last 10 years.
Mohanty said authorities were now taking the plea that the penalty is not legally tenable as the rules amended by the centre define illegal mining to mean only outside the lease area.
If the court quashes the amendment, Odisha has a good chance of getting thousands of crores of fines, Mohanty said.
In his petition, Mohanty said mining operations were to be carried out strictly in accordance with permissible limits under the mining lease.
These limits on mining were also taken into account in the clearances under the Environment and Forest legislations, he pointed out.
Any deviation from the permissible limits in the mining plan constitutes a violation of the law for which strict criminal as well as punitive liability is laid out in the existing legal framework governing the mining sector, he said.
He has also challenged the instructions issued by the ministry of mines to the Odisa government Sep 5 as it adopted a similar position on the issue of illegal mining.
Mohanty alleged that the sole motive behind the 'impugned instructions' and the amendment in the rules was to give an exit pass and a shield to the mining lobby, which had indulged in illegal excessive mining in the state.