In the first part we have seen, countless reports from 2017 revealing unabated riverbed mining, exposing some politicians-officials-mafia nexus and showing no let up in violent attacks on many villagers, activists, government officials possibly by sand mafia across the country.
In the second part of Sand Mining Review of 2017, reports have highlighted several State Governments failing to effectively reign in unsustainable sand mining business despite sometimes prompt administrative actions. Interestingly, while several States want the Centre to form a uniform mechanism, the Central Government on the contrary has proposed further dilution of mining laws.
Now, here is third and concluding part of this review, highlighting judicial interventions on the issue.
Sand is a ‘minor mineral’ as defined under the section 3(e) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act). Section 15 of the MMDR Act gives complete powers to the respective state Government regarding the formation of rules related to the grant of mining leases of minor minerals. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttar-pradesh-identifies-200-sites-for-auction-after-resolution-of-court-cases-4735832/ (July 2017)
Further, section 23C of the MMDR Act, 1957 empowers state governments to frame rules to prevent illegal mining, transportation and storage of mineral sand for purposes connected therewith. Control of illegal mining is, therefore, under the legislative and administrative jurisdiction of state governments. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155423 (December 2016)
However under Environment Protection Act 1986, Central Government has authority to form policies and guidelines to promote sustainable sand mining practices. In 2016, Ministry of Environment & Forest formed Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines. http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20Sustainable%20Sand%20Mining%20Management%20Guidelines%202016.pdf
Central Bureau of Investigation and MoEF team also take actions against illegal sand mining after Court orders and citizens’ complaints.
The Ministry of Mines has formed Star Rating system to encourage sustainable mining practices. Ministry of Mines & Indian Bureau of Mines have developed the Mining Surveillance System a satellite-based monitoring system to curb instances of illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology. Geological Survey of India is working on digital maps to exchange information with external stakeholders, including Ministry of Mines. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174822
In the past, GSI has issued guidelines to address the massive damage that riverbed mining can cause, including lowering the groundwater table in a floodplain. http://iasscore.in/national-issues/illegal-sand-mining-steps-taken-by-government-of-india-
This year several States have asked Central Government to make unified mechanism to check illegal sand mining. http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/odisha-suggests-uniform-coding-to-check-illegal-sand-mining-117061700753_1.html (June 2017)
On the contrary to this, in a major dilution of laws, MoEF has proposed relaxation in EC for mining of 47 minor minerals including sand. The draft notification issued on Dec 18, 2017 allows states to clear mining projects spanning up to 100 ha, thus doubling the limit. Minor mineral leases above 100 ha will require clearance from the Centre. The annual value of extracted minor minerals is estimated to be upwards of Rs 50,000 crore. https://scroll.in/article/862355/centre-wants-to-dilute-environment-clearance-norms-for-irrigation-projects-mining-of-47-minerals (December 2017)
UTTARAKHAND Ban on mining across the State The Nainital High Court (HC) on March 28, 2017, banned mining across the state for four months directing the government to form a “high level committee” to recommend guidelines to stop illegal mining and reclaim mined areas.
The order was applicable on interstate rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Gaula, Kosi, Dabka and Kali and also nearly 100 seasonal rivers and rivulets on foothills of the state.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the court also asked the committee to probe on how illegal mining was continuing in the state, its impact on local ecology and come up with guidelines to stop it. It also wanted the committee to recommend a plan to reclaim the mined areas which normally turn into a waste-land.
The court gave the state government four weeks to submit the report and banned ongoing mining operations till then. It said there would be “complete ban on mining activities including in forest areas, rivers, rivulets and streams in the State of Uttarakhand” till the submission of the report by High Powered Committee.
Directing the committee to prepare a comprehensive action plan for mining in the state, the HC said the ‘committee’ will “prepare the blueprint for next 50 years taking into consideration the environment limits vis-à-vis the mining operation” in the state. http://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/uttarakhand-hc-bans-river-mining-across-state-for-four-months-seeks-report-from-government /story-sKJwbBvCh72KWUd2yGCfkI.html (April 2017)
See order copy here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzXilfcxe7yuWE10SWtkd2J0VGM/view
The honourable court also ordered the installation of CCTVs, barricading of identified areas and other measures necessary to check illegal mining. The HC direction came while hearing a PIL mentioning excessive quarrying in Kosi and Dabka rivers leading to change in rivers courses thus damaging crops and houses during monsoon. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/stop-illegal-mining-on-kosi-dabka-riverbeds-uttarakhand-high-court/articleshow/57860773.cms (March 2017)
Following the order, officials in the mining department feared that government would suffer revenue loss of up to Rs 200 crore from Kumaon division alone where bulk of the mining occurred in the river beds of Gaula, Kosi, Daka and other sister rivers.
As per Rajpal Legha, deputy director of the mining department Gaula river, the lifeline of mining activities in Kumaon division, was providing around 54 lakh cubic metres of river bed material annually. This year, the target was to generate a revenue of Rs 262 crore from mining in Gaula River, of which the department had generated Rs 121 crore so far. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/hc-mining-ban-leaves-1-lakh-migrant-labourers-unemployed/articleshow/57898739.cms (March 2017)
Uttarakhand government to challenge high court mining ban in Supreme Court The State Government decided to move the Supreme Court (SC) against a HC mining band order. A source in the government said the high court issued the order without declaring the central government’s Major and Minor Minerals Act as ultra virus which regulated all mining activity in the state.
Secretary, finance, Amit Negi said the state government had fixed a revenue target of ₹550 crore from mining in the current fiscal (2017-18). Normally, government earned ₹350 crore as revenue from mining. http://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/uttarakhand-government-to-challenge-high-court-mining-ban-in-supreme-court/story-MwDrGsiG1KAaDJpBbdPqhO.html (March 2017)
Supreme Court stays Uttarakhand High Court order banning mining After hearing senior advocate Nidesh Gupta challenging the decision on the ground that it put to naught the existing mining policy and laws while affecting business of mining lease holders, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar on April 10, 2017 ordered a stay on the HC decision. The petitioners also pointed out that NGT had been dealing with sand mining on the Ganga river bed and had allowed mining subject to stringent conditions. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/supreme-court-stays-uttarakhand-high-court-order-banning-mining/articleshow/58118690.cms (April 2017)
SC stays Uttarakhand HC’s order banning mining in Ganga The Supreme Court (SC) on May 05 stayed an order of the Nainital high court (HC) delivered in December 2016 which prohibited any type of mining in the river Ganga in Uttarakhand.
A division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh of the Nainital high court had in an order dated December 5, 2016 banned all mining in the Ganga in Uttarakhand as part of a judgement delivered in a case between a petitioner, Mohd Salim and the state government.
Subsequently, the state government had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court seeking lifting of mining ban in Ganga. Incidentally, on April 10, the SC had stayed another order of the Nainital high court dated March 28, through which the court had imposed a four-month ban on mining in the state. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/sc-stays-uttarakhand-hcs-order-banning-mining-in-ganga-state-government -welcomes-step/articleshow/58538466.cms (May 2017)
Uttarakhand High court stays government order cancelling mining licences HC on May 18, stayed the state government’s decision of cancelling mining leases or licences in Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar districts. The petition was filed by a company involved in the business from Ramnagar in Nainital district after the state government had on May 1, 2017 ordered cancellation of mining leases or licences.
Meanwhile, the HC also issued contempt notices to various key officials of the state government in a matter related to illegal mining in the river Ganga. The order following a petition filed by a resident alleging that the state government officials failed to abide by the previous court order regarding illegal mining in the holy river. The petitioner also alleged that the court’s order to stop mining from Raiwala to Bhogpur area in Haridwar district and shutting down of stone crushing plants within a radius of five kilometers of Ganga was also not followed. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/uttarakhand-hc-stays-order-government -order-cancelling-mining-licences/articleshow/58739298.cms (May 2017)
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on July 07, 2017 directed the government to ensure that no “illegal” sand mining being carried out on the floodplains of river Ganga in the state and to take necessary steps in this regard on a plea seeking a stay on mining of minor minerals on the bed of river Ganga in Haridwar. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ensure-ban-on-illegal-sand-mining-ngt-tells-uttarakhand-4740672/ (July 2017)
Electronic weigh bridge issue hits mining in Gola river A case in HC against electronic weigh bridge tenders delayed resumption of mining this year in Haldwani’s Gola river. Officials were clue less when the mining would resume this year. It had been decided that quarrying would begin on Gola river from October 1, 2017, however, there was delay as some quarrying operators approached the court over tenders for electronic weigh bridges. http://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/electronic-weigh-bridge-issue-hits-mining-on-uttarakhand-s-gola-river/story-fBYWtSown07xk99xuZV2QK.html (Nov 2017)
UTTAR PRADESH NGT directed Gonda DM to file affidavit on illegal sand mining The Green Tribunal on Feb 21, 2017 directed District Magistrate of Gonda to file an affidavit on the issue of illegal sand mining. The green bench also slammed the officer for not appearing before it despite specific orders passed thrice.
The NGT was hearing a plea by Lok Sabha MP Kirti Vardhan Singh from Gonda who had written to it seeking ban on large-scale illegal sand mining going on in Kalyanpur and Chak Rasool areas under Tehsil Tarabganj in Gonda. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ngt-directs-gonda-dm-to-file-affidavit-on-illegal-sand-mining-4536754/ (February 2017)
The tribunal on May 16, banned illegal extraction of minor minerals through mechanised mining in Gonda and Faizabad districts of Uttar Pradesh and ordered a probe into the unauthorised activities there. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ngt-bans-mechanised-sand-mining-in-uttar-pradesh-orders-enquiry/articleshow/58703542.cms (May 2017)
NGT summoned politicians in Ken river mining case The green tribunal summoned Lakhan Singh from Samajwadi Party (SP) and Daljit Singh of Congress for allegedly lifting sand from Ken river in Banda District. This came after the district superintendent of police, RP Pandey, himself named the two, expressing helplessness in a letter to the Banda district magistrate. This was submitted as proof before the NGT. The NGT order came on a petition filed by one Brij Mohan Yadav, a resident of Banda, who claimed to be a victim of sand mining. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/ngt-samajwadi-party-congress-sand-mining-case/1/869568.html (January 2017)
Allahabad HC directed CBI to probe illegal mining After directions from Allahabad HC, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) instituted separate preliminary enquiries against unknown government officials in connection with alleged illegal sand mining in five districts, including the poll-bound Deoria.
The CBI had earlier submitted its initial findings to the HC following a directive. The U.P. government had in 2016 opposed the order for a CBI probe, but the court rejected the plea. Subsequently, the State government had removed the then State Mining Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/cbi-to-probe-illegal-sand-mining-in-5-up-districts/article17398079.ece (March 2017)
In June 2017, following the court directive, CBI registered five preliminary inquiries over allegations of illegal sand mining in the five districts Shamli, Hamirpur, Fatehpur, Siddharth Nagar and Deoria. The court had directed CBI to probe the matter in March 2017 after a PIL was filed alleging that illegal sand mining was taking place with an active involvement of government officials. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/up-govt-officials-come-under-cbi-lens-in-illegal-sand-mining-case/story-9Nn1t6Qs0aeJf1iIHhDl1J.html (June 2017)
HC asks government to take action against 2 officers The Allahabad HC directed State government to consider placing Rakesh Kumar Singh and Rajeev Rautela, former District Magistrates of Rampur, under suspension and initiate disciplinary proceedings against them. The officials had granted sand storage license to one Gulam Hussain alias Nanhe on July 16, 2016, despite categorical finding recorded by the HC in its earlier order that he was involved in illegal mining from river Kosi. http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/hc-asks-up-government-to-consider-action-against-two-senior-officers-117121401292_1.html (Dec 2017)
PUNJAB Notice to Punjab government, Mohali police on illegal mining The Punjab and Haryana HC on Dec 22, 2017 issued a notice to the Punjab government and Mohali police on a plea seeking directions to halt the alleged extensive illegal mining being carried out at Salempur Khurd and Siana Majra villages. The plea alleged that the mining was being done in “collusion and connivance with the authorities”, including Mohali’s mining officer.
The plea filed by a resident of Mohali alleged that sarpanch of Salempur Khurd along with his associates has been doing illegal mining in the villages in about 100 acres of land and “are excavating minerals like sand, clay, earth, gravel, gataka, without any permission from the concerned authorities, and in violation of the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Punjab Minor Mineral Rules, 2013”. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/punjab-and-haryana-hc-issues-notice-to-punjab-government -mohali-police-on-illegal-mining-4995216/ (December 2017)
RAJASTHAN SC bans sand mining by 82 lease holders SC on Nov 16, 2017 restrained 82 large sand mine lease holders in the state from carrying out mining of sand and bajri in the state with immediate effect unless a scientific replenishment study is completed and the matter is fully and dispassionately considered by the MoEF and an ECs to be granted or rejected. The apex court also directed the chief secretary to file an affidavit over the allegation that the state of Rajasthan is complicit with the miners/quarry holders and sand and bajri is being mined with impunity. The reply had to be filed within four weeks. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/sc-bans-sand-mining-by-82-lease-holders-in-state/articleshow/61679406.cms (November 2017)
The SC order followed a Special Leave Petition by the lease holders against the adverse High Court order of October 21, 2013. Complying with the SC order, the state Mining Department has banned mining in 53 blocks, mainly in Jaipur, Alwar, Tonk and Sawai Madhopur riverbeds. If the state government does not reply in four weeks, there is a possibility that quarrying in all riverbeds, except Chambal and Mahi, may be banned.
A Division Bench of the apex court, had in its order restrained 82 mining lease/quarry holders from carrying out mining of sand and bajri, “unless a scientific replenishment study is fully and dispassionately considered by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and an environmental clearance is granted or rejected.” http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/despite-sc-order-mining-flourishing/507907.html, http://www.livelaw.in/illegal-bajri-mining-rajasthan-sc-restrains-82-quarry-holders-read-order/ (December 2017)
However despite ban, illegal sand mining continues in Ajmer with the mining and police departments turning a blind eye to the problem. A Hindustan Times report mentioned that more than 100 sand-laden trolleys being ferried everyday from the Khari river bed between Tankawas and Dundhari villages under Sawar block of the district, which is allegedly sold in the grey market at an exorbitant price. http://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/illegal-sand-mining-continues-in-ajmer-despite-sc-ban/story-b5e1grT9RodqC8BGqYMifN.html (November 2017)
MAHARASHTRA NGT barred Govt from giving permits for sand mining The green court prohibited the government from granting permission for sand mining on the river beds. The green panel gave the decision following the state government’s inability to stop illegal sand-mining, especially the mining from the river bed using the suction pumps.
The court also questioned the police officers from Solapur district, asking how many illegal sand miners were arrested so far. The bench said that besides illegal mining, the mechanised sand mining using the pumps had to stop too. The bench also asked for a list of companies or parties, both legal and illegal, involved in sand mining and also ordered seizure of the machinery.
Earlier in March 2017, the court had pointed out the incidents of illegal mechanised river sand mining in Man river basin at a village in the Solapur district. The District collector of Solapur was then directed to conduct an inquiry to reveal as to why the concerned officials could not seize and confiscate machinery despite proofs of mechanical sand mining activities in the region. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/ngt-bars-maharashtra-from-giving-permits-for-sand-mining-117041901228_1.html (April 2017)
NGT quashed EC for sand ghats in Gondia NGT quashed environmental clearances (ECs) for sand mining in Gondia district. The court also directed a stay on sand mining activity in the area and asked tehsildars of the concerned areas to file fresh applications. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/ngt-quashes-env-clearances-for-sand-ghats-in-gondia/articleshow/61759612.cms (November 2017)
NGT denied in-stream mining permission from Bhima river NGT order prohibited the State Government from granting any permission in-stream suction mining of sand, under any circumstances, without prior approval of the Tribunal. The miners had invoked business and economic grounds for modification of order dated 19/04/2017. NGT disposed of the Application by stating that Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines of 2016 clearly prohibited in-stream mining and that the mechanical riverbed mining was also impermissible except where the mining was carried on in consonance with the Rules and the Guidelines. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/content/443427/judgement-of-the-national-green-tribunal-regarding-illegal-sand-mining-in-the-middle-river-bhima-district-sholapur-maharashtra-30052017/ (May 2017)
In February 2017 the court had appointed Chetan Nagare as Local Commissioner to visit the sites of Kurugodu and Chinchapur, Village, District Sholapur immediately and report to the Tribunal the position of mechanical suction mining being carried on in the said river at these places. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/content/440090/order-of-the-national-green-tribunal-regarding-illegal-mining-in-the-middle-river-bhima-district-sholapur-maharashtra-23022017/
GUJARAT Illegal riverbed mining rampant in Gujarat: HC Gujarat HC sounded a warning against indiscriminate illegal sand mining in riverbed in Gujarat and made certain norms more stringent to curb the activity. In an order passed on Dec 21 2017, the HC observed, “Illegal mining in the state of Gujarat, more particularly, the riverbed mining is at a rampage creating a lot of ecological imbalance.”
Expressing its concern about ecological imbalance, the HC said, “The minerals are non-renewable and limited natural resources and constitute vital raw materials in a number of basic and important industries. The extraction of minerals from nature often creates imbalances, which adversely affect the environment. The key environmental impacts of mining are of wildlife and fishery habitats, the water balance, local climates and the pattern of rainfall, sedimentation, the depletion of forests and disruption of the ecology.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/illegal-riverbed-mining-rampant-in-gujarat-hc/articleshow/62186305.cms (December 2017)
MADHYA PRADESH NGT order on illegal sand mining in the river Narmada NGT directed that the senior most officer of mining department be present before the Tribunal on the next date of hearing and answer the issues related to Sand Mining Narmada NGT Order. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/content/447408/order-of-the-national-green-tribunal-regarding-illegal-sand-mining-in-the-river-narmada-madhya-pradesh-13092017/ (November 2017)
On the other hand, in violation of NGT ban mining was going on unabated in Ken river. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/despite-ngt-ban-illegal-sand-mining-continues-unabated-in-bundelkhand-region/story-aKkhFzhIDc78yTJNudmAwO.html (February 2017)
ODISHA Illegal Ore Mining SC imposed 100% penalty on companies In a significant decision the SC imposed 100% penalty on mining lease holders operating without necessary clearances in the state. The court also asked the companies, which were served the demand notice by the Odisha government, to deposit the due on or before December 31.
While the state government imposed about Rs 60,000 crore penalty on mines for illegal mining between 2000 and 2010, the Central Empowered Committee, appointed by the apex court, recommended that at least 30% notional value may be realised from the mining companies. It suggested formation of an expert Committee headed by a retired SC judge to look into the factors that made rampant illegal mining possible in Odisha and elsewhere.
The court also directed the Centre to have a fresh look at the National Mineral Policy, 2008 and complete the exercise by December 31. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sc-imposes-100-penalty-on-illegal-mining-in-odisha/story-6NZrZvAkGtUVQ6GmKE1WzL.html (August 2017)
As per another report, between 2001 and 2010 more than 2155 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore and mangenese ore worth Rs 17,576 crore was illegally mined in the state of Odisha. It destroyed not just the environment and forest but also caused untold misery to tribals living in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj.
Stepping in, the SC recently passed a landmark verdict directing the Odisha government to recover this money (Rs 17,567 cr) from the 187 mining companies. Top companies such as SAIL, Tata Steel, Aditya Birla group’s Essel Mining and Odisha Mining Corp were in the dock for the violations.
Environmentalists suggested that the judgment had opened the doors for recovering similar penalties from mine owners who illegally mined iron ore in Goa and Karnataka. It’s only a matter of time that petitions in the SC are filed to this effect.
In the past decade, India’s mining sector has been marred by countless controversies, including over-extraction of mineral ore, illegal selling, mining outside the lease area and carrying out mining in officially closed mines. http://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/sc-verdict-on-odisha-mining-suggests-that-national-mineral-policy-exists-only-on-paper/story-coSWAK6MIGBhzl6Cg8vAZO.html (August 2017)
As per Scroll.in report, the existing regulations have failed to arrest illegal mining in the country. They have also failed to mitigate the social and environmental consequences of mining. Communities living close to the mineral reserves teeter at the edge of destitution and battle environmental pollution even as a handful of politically-connected people amass extraordinary riches.
Taking cognizance of the issues, the SC directed the Centre to set up an expert committee, chaired by a retired judge, to identify the regulatory lapses that allowed illegal mining. It also directed the Union government to review the National Mineral Policy, 2008, in order to bring in greater transparency, environmental protection and more social and economic growth.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Mines set up the KR Rao Committee on August 14. The committee was expected to submit its report on October 31.
Interestingly, the committee has 29 members from the ministries for coal, finance, shipping, road transport, mining and environment but none from tribal affairs, no ecologists and civil society member. https://scroll.in/article/851458/india-has-a-chance-to-clean-up-its-mining-sector-but-the-government-is-blowing-it (September 2017)
On similar lines a report from The Wire highlighted the absence of civil society stakeholders and representation from sections of India’s adivasi population in KR Rao committee. Further, in the committee’s first three meetings (August 28, September 11 and September 26), there was no representation from the tribal welfare or panchayati raj ministries.
As per experts, the environmental fallout and land resettlement issues associated with India’s mining boom disproportionately affects local adivasi and tribal communities.
On September 26, at the panel’s third meeting, government bureaucrats heard out submissions made by Karnataka-based non-profit Samaj Parivartan Samudaya (through its president S.R. Hiremath) and the Goa Foundation and agreed to co-opt them as ad-hoc members and have them submit inputs by October 5, 2017.
According to the committee, the first draft was to be put together by October 13, 2017 and then released for public comments by the end of the month. https://thewire.in/182397/india-mineral-policy/ (October 2017)
BIHAR DIG Shalin to probe irregularities in sand mining leases The Patna HC on Feb. 17, 2017 appointed DIG (central range) Shalin as officer of the court for conducting probe into different aspects of sand mining in Bihar, especially Patna and Bhojpur districts, which form a significant part of the sand mining belt. DIG Shalin had claimed to make a thorough probe into the irregularities and corruption in settlement of sand mining leases in the state. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/dig-shalin-to-probe-irregularities-in-sand-mining-leases/articleshow/57226306.cms (February 2017)
Later the court, on Feb. 20 2017, temporarily stayed the probe. As per the petitioner advocate, the petition had been stayed for the time being and the original case would be converted into a PIL, which would be listed for hearing before a division bench. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/hc-stays-probe-into-illegal-sand-mining-in-patna-and-bhojpur-districts/articleshow/57349340.cms (February 2017)
High Court Stays Mining Rules The division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anil Kumar Upadhyay of the Patna HC on Nov 27 stayed the execution of Bihar Minor Mineral Rules, 2017 introduced by the state Government. The bench was hearing a bunch of writ petitions filed by Pushpa Kumari and others challenging the new rules and claimed that these were not in accordance with the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The new rules were introduced after the state govt’s crackdown on illegal sand mining within three days of forming the new government. Several RJD functionaries had been accused of being involved in illegal sand mining in the state. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/hc-stays-new-mineral-rules/articleshow/61824334.cms (November 28, 2017)
TAMIL NADU Madras HC asks Government to take action on illegal mining The Madras HC disposed of a PIL seeking a direction to the State government to ban sand quarrying in the State and to mandate use of manufactured sand as an alternative to river sand in construction activities. The court directed the State government to take action on the representation made by the petitioner in accordance with law. Attributing the situation to illegal sand quarrying in the water bodies across the State, the petitioner submitted that pursuant to a recommendation by a high-level committee to regulate sand quarrying, the State government issued a Government Order dated Oct 1, 2003 making the then existing licences ineffective and restricted the licences. He alleged that despite the restrictions, private contractors were exploiting the riverbed. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sand-mining-govt-told-to-take-action/article17396738.ece (March 2017)
Committee report on sand mining The Committee of Commissioners, appointed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras HC submitted a report on its inspection of sand mining in Tiruchi and Karur areas. The committee found that the entire river was riddled with pits and ponds due to unscientific mining being carried out beyond permitted levels. The EC and quarrying permission obtained were not in compliance with laws and were in violation of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority clearance. In Chinthalaivaadi, two quarries were operated side by side – one legal and the other illegal. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/sand-mining/article19672530.ece (July 2017)
PIL sought closure of sand quarries A PIL filed in the Madras High Court by Anbumani Ramadoss, the sitting MP sought a direction for State government to permanently close down all sand quarries situated across the State and consequently begin promoting the use of alternatives to river sand for constructing government as well as private buildings. According to petition, ever since the Government took over sand quarrying through the PWD, there had been reckless mining of sand in all important river basins in Tamil Nadu. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/anbumani-seeks-closure-of-sand-quarries-in-state/article20448389.ece (November 2017)
HC directed government to stop sand mining in 6 months The Madras HC on Nov 29 directed the State Government to stop all sand mining and quarrying activities in the state within six months and to not open any new sand quarries. The court also directed that a committee be constituted to ascertain the loss to the state exchequer due to illegal mining and recover the same from companies, individuals or government servants found responsible for it. http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/madras-hc-directs-tn-government -to-stop-sand-mining-in-six-months-117112900916_1.html (November 2017)
The state was ordered to not open any new sand quarries and that the quarries of granites and other minerals, except gravel, should be periodically closed to maintain ecological balance. In order to curb illegal sand mining, the court has also directed to set up permanent checkpoints equipped with CCTV cameras. http://zeenews.india.com/tamil-nadu/madras-hc-directs-tn-government -to-stop-sand-mining-in-six-months-2061481.html (November 2017)
The court had also allowed import of river sand from Malaysia. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/stop-sand-quarrying-within-six-months-hc/article21135704.ece (November 2017)
The HC on Dec 5, refused to stay a single judge order directing closure of all sand quarries in Tami Nadu within six months. District collectors of Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari preferred an appeal in the court against the Nov 29 order of Justice R Mahadevan. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/madras-hc-refuses-to-stay-single-judge-order-on-closure-of-sand-quarries-in-tn/articleshow/61928608.cms (December 2017)
In its appeal against the ban on sand mining, State Government argued that the single bench order was beyond the scope of the writ petition and the State has powers to regulate transport and storage of sand. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/state-has-powers-to-regulate-transport-and-storage-of-sand-madurai-high-court/article21268358.ece (December 2017)
Environmentalists welcomed the order but industry has feared negative impact on business. PWD officials and builders feel imported sand may not be a permanent solution to the crisis in the State, raising doubts over the quality and cost factor in the long run as demand goes up. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/activists-welcome-order-industry-concerned/article21135832.ece (December 2017)
Meanwhile the court on Dec 7 2017, directed the Industries Secretary to file a comprehensive report before the court by collecting details from all District Collectors with regard to the ongoing mining activities throughout the State. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/submit-detailed-report-on-mining-activities-in-state/article21292856.ece (December 2017)
In a separate case Pudukkottai Court awarded double life term to four persons in a four-year-old murder case. The four member gang had hacked two siblings to death for informing revenue officials over their illegal sand mining from the riverbed at Sengalakudi near Pudukkottai. Based on the information from Karthikeyan, 34, and Rajesh (26) from the same village, police had arrested Rajendran, Muthalagu, Nataraj and Murthy for illegally mining sand. Out on bail, the four member gang took revenge for their arrest by killing the duo. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/trichy/4-get-life-in-murder-case/articleshow/62044782.cms (December 2017)
Illegal Beach Mining HC initiated probe in illegal beach mineral mining The Madras HC on April 5 2017, ordered a team of mining and atomic mineral experts to collect samples from three key coastal districts of Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari in southern Tamil Nadu and to submit report. The court directed the assistant commissioner of customs to furnish details of quantity of monazite and other beach minerals exported, along with their value, year-wise from 2006, till date.
The court was hearing a PIL on the matter of Beach Sand Minerals and was going through a 2014 report submitted by IAS officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi, prior to the order. Bedi had submitted that illicit mining and transportation of beach sand continued on a massive scale despite a ban on mining of beach sand since 2013. The report further brought to the notice of the bench that an alleged attempt made by VV Minerals for mining and transporting the minerals without proper documentation. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/madras-hc-initiates-crackdown-illegal-beach-mineral-mining-southern-tamil-nadu-59850; https://thewire.in/122893/mining-ball-centres-court/ (April 2017)
Amicus Curiae report found massive scale illegal beach mining A report by the amicus curiae V. Suresh submitted in the Madras HC on June 20 2017, in a PIL that begun in 2015, threw light on the large-scale illegal mining of beach sand in Tamil Nadu. The State government banned beach sand mining and exports in 2013.
As per report calculation, out of 1.5 crore Tonnes of raw sand mined between 2000 and 2017 in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts, 57% was mined illegally. It also noted that “in general, 6 out of 7 Mining Lessees indulged in unlawful mining and transportation. The report showed how the government’s ban on beach sand mining and exports since September 2013 had only managed to give the miners a free run. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/beached-by-illegal-sand-mining/article19246822.ece (July 2017)
The report observed: “… a high level probe needs to be instituted to examine how such approvals were given and to fix accountability for the same. Considering the high value of the minerals, the probe should also explore possibilities of different types of influences leading to the granting of approvals of mining plans on the part of officials of IBM and AMD. The highest levels of officials in the decision-making chain should be personally held liable for decisions found to be of doubtful or questionable nature.” http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/illegalities-in-beach-sand-mining-in-tn-says-amicus-curiae-report/article19247967.ece ; http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/beached-by-illegal-sand-mining/article19246822.ece (July 2017)
In September 2017, accusing the amicus curiae as ‘biased’, one of the private firms involved in a PIL petitioned the Madras High Court to relieve him. General Manager of Transworld Garnet, Stephen David filed a sub application in the court to relieve amicus curiae, V Suresh from the case. The court had appointed V Suresh in its order of 28 January 2016. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/030917/tamil-nadu-relieve-amicus-curiae-from-beach-sand-mining-case.html (September 2017)
On Oct 3 2017, the Court dismissed a petition seeking discharge of advocate V Suresh as amicus and rejected the petitioner’s charge that Suresh had earlier appeared on behalf of a ‘henchman’ of a rival firm in the case. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/hc-rejects-plea-against-amicus-curiae/1159686 (October 2017)
In November the First Bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar which heard the PIL and other petitions and appeals in connection with beach sand mining cases ordered transfer of all these petitions before a division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee. Applications for vacating interim orders in these cases should also be placed before the same bench, the court said. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/madras-hc-transfers-beach-sand-mining-cases-to-division-bench-4922532/ (November 2017)
ANDHRA PRADESH, TALENGANA Illegal Desilting NGT barred mechanical sand mining The Tribunal directed Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments to ensure that there is no mechanical sand mining on the riverbeds in the states. A court also directed both the states to file affidavits of secretaries concerned on the issue of sand mining in major rivers like Krishna, Godavari, Vamsadhara, Penna, Pranahita and their tributaries.
The green panel’s direction came while hearing a plea by NGO Readiness for Empowerment through Legitimate Action (RELA) and Polavaram Mandal ex-president Vara Laxmi seeking directions to Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odissa and Maharashtra governments to ban illegal sand mining. The plea had also sought directions to formulate and place on record strategy to prevent illegal mining and a cumulative impact study on rampant sand mining in these states. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ngt-bars-mechanical-sand-mining-in-andhra-pradesh-telangana-4423645/ (January 2017)
NGT issued notices against sand mining The Tribunal issued notices to Telangana, AP, Maharashtra and Central governments on the ongoing illegal sand mining hearing the PIL from RELA NGO. The petitioner argued that the Telangana government had illegally ordered sand mining of 5.60 crore cubic metres and permitting the same at Medigadda and Annaram reservoirs. Andhra Pradesh was also allowing illegal mining in Krishna and Godavari river beds and their tributaries. Similarly, Maharashtra was encouraging the same sand mining in Manjira river bed leading to serious environmental complications. Similarly one more petitioner had approached the court complaining against Chhattisgarh State Government. The NGT has bunched the petitions for further hearing. http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Telangana/2017-02-24/NGT-issues-notices-against-sand-mining/282908 (February 2017)
NGT asked CPCB to clarify Further the court directed Central Pollution Control Board to inspect riverbeds in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and clarify whether sand mining was being carried out in the name of desilting and submit a comprehensive report within two weeks indicating whether desilting was essential for the area or not.
It also asked to investigate the contentions of these states that such activity could not be done manually and had to be done mechanically. The NGT had earlier directed Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments to ensure that there is no mechanical sand mining on the riverbeds in the states without prior environment clearance. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/desilting-or-sand-mining-in-andhra-pradesh-telangana-ngt-asks-cpcb-to-clarify-4599214/ (April 2017)
CPCB pulled up Telangana and Andhra over ‘illegal’ sand-mining In its report, CPCB faulted the both State governments for undertaking sand-mining in reservoirs and rivers without obtaining EC, without carrying out detailed assessment of sand deposition and without studying the impact on the environment.
The CPCB in its additional report on Telangana said sand excavation was carried out in hundreds of hectares using hundreds of vehicles. It said full-fledged desilting was in progress in Telangana and the government was earning money by selling sand. It said a detailed study was not done to verify environmental sustainability as was required as per the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016 before undertaking the desilting activities especially in the submergence areas of the rivers Manair, Mohitummeda and Godavari.
In case of Andhra, CPCB found mining was going on in 7 places (Penumaka, Venkatayapalem, Uddandarayunipalem Lingayapalem, Prakasam Barrage, Rayapudi I and Rayapudi II) in place of 5 as mentioned by the government. The CPCB team said there were procedural discrepancies before undertaking the dredging operations; the government had not carried out the detailed study on environmental sustainability and the impacts of dredging operations on flora and fauna by involving the relevant departments. The CPCB report said this clearly indicated that the objective was to “extracts sand from Krishna River rather than to desilt it”. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/230517/cpbc-pulls-up-telangana-anf-ap-government-over-illegal-sand-mining.html (May 2017)
ANDHRA PRADESH Officials rebuked over failure to check illegal mining The Amravati HC on Feb. 1 2017, faulted the revenue authorities of Kurnool district for not being prompt in preventing illegal mining of sand on the banks of river Handri. It was contended in the writ petition that there was a large-scale illegal mining of sand and that the revenue authorities turned a blind eye in spite of repeated complaints. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amaravati/illegal-sand-mining-high-court-pulls-up-andhra-pradesh-officials/articleshow/56906586.cms (February 2017)
KARNATAKA NGT orders against sand mining in CRZ The Chennai bench of Green Tribunal in its recent order has disallowed sand extraction in the name of clearing sand dunes in coastal regulatory zone. The court, in this connection, had quashed all the licences issued by the district administration for sand extraction. It observed that the district administration had not properly followed the guidelines contained in the notification issued by the department of environment and forests when issuing these licences. http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=440341 (Feb 2017)
Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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