TODAY -

High Court holds Govt responsible for illegal quarrying
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, August 01 2019: The High Court of Manipur has come down heavily upon the State Government, ruling that if the Government has not granted prospecting license or quarrying concession, then the Government alone is responsible for the illegal extraction, quarrying, mining and transportation of sand and stone in the State.

A Division Bench of the High Court of Manipur comprising of Chief Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice Kh Nobin made this observation yesterday in connection with a PIL filed for preservation of Thoubal river.

The case began before the Court in connection with illegal sand and stone mining in various districts of Manipur and yesterday, the matter was taken up before the Court which called S Rupachandra, Additional Advocate General, to address the issues for consideration.

The Court order mentioned that it is scientifically proven that large scale unregulated sand mining leads to the destruction of river beds and adjacent areas which will ultimately cause immense loss to farming and agricultural activities, depletion of water in the rivers thus causing environmental degradation and socio-economic deprivation.

As such, the Court asked the Additional AG to address the stand of the State Government in response to the orders passed by the High Court on July 2 and 9.On the other hand, the Additional AG referred to the affidavit of the State annexure document and pleaded that the Forest Department has been collecting penalty from people who are engaged in illegal extraction and transportation of sand and stone.

However, he clarified that no prospective license or quarrying concession have been given to any person in the State so far.

The Additional AG further submitted that the authorities are actively examining the matter based on the provision of Mines and Mineral Regulation Act 1957, Manipur Miner Mineral Concession Rules, 2012 and Manipur Mineral Prevention of Illegal Mining Storage and Transportation Rules 2018 and sought more time to get instructions from the Government as to how it is going to deal with the plea for grants of prospective license or quarrying concession for extraction of sand and stones under the provision of the above mentioned Act and rules.

The Court then asked the Additional AG as to why the Government has so far not formulated a scheme for granting prospecting license or invoking the provision so that the whole process can be regulated, fetching income for the State to which the Additional AG submitted that the Government is presently working on it.

Observing that the Government choosing to take steps to grant prospecting license for extraction of miner mineral is the cause of the illegal sand mining and consequent pollution and destruction of the river, the Court ruled that when the Government itself is aware of and accepts illegal sand mining, the question of finding fault with anybody does not arise.

The Court opined that the Government is bound to implement the provisions of the Act and the rules under Environment Protection Act 1996 and levying of penalty is not the answer.

The inaction on the part of the State Government is a gain for sand mafia and vested interest groups, the Court mentioned.

It further mentioned that if any person is aggrieved by the interim order passed by the Court, they have the right to get impleaded and seek modification if they have a reasonable cause.

However, disturbance caused to public in the name of protest shows the failure on the part of the State Government to go by the rule of the law, the Court observed cautioning that the officers of the Government will be solely responsibility for dereliction of their duties if they fail to protect the rule of law.

The Court then reasoned that in view of the unreasonable protest and blockade, the silence of the Government may give rise to speculation that the illegality is been supported and propagated.

The Court further asked the press and media to take caution and avoid giving any unwarranted publicity to agitation which promote and support the illegal act of sand quarrying, mining and transportation.

If the Government has not granted prospecting license or quarrying concession then the Government alone is responsible for illegal extraction, quarrying, mining and transportation of sand and stone, the Court ruled adding that this has to be properly made aware in the public domain so that the people do not get misguided by wrong information and false statements.

The failure to grant prospecting license or quarrying concession is a huge loss to the State exchequer.

In any event, the same has to be granted after getting necessary environmental clearance and if there is no proper regulation, it will lead to sand mafia looting the State revenue and similar cases have also come up before various High Courts and the Supreme Court, it opined.

In response to the Court, the State Government filled affidavit stating that flood plain zoning authority has been constituted and that it undertake periodical maintenance to prevent flood in the Sekmai river.

Several steps have been taken up to prevent flood but despite adequate steps, floods often cause disturbance as it is difficult to assess nature, the Additional AG submitted.

He produced the copy of the proceeding of the National Green Tribunal of August 5, 2013, wherein the Tribunal ordered that there should be no quarrying in Sekmai river and he further submitted that in the entire State and in the vicinity of Sekmai river, the authorities will ensure effective implementation of the Act as well as proper maintenance of Sekmai river.

Observing that steps have been taken up to address the issue, the Court opined that with further direction to strictly implement the necessary provisions and Act, the situation can be controlled and as such, closed the PIL.

The Court also directed the Additional AG to get proper instruction on all aspects of the matter and place it before the Court on the next date of hearing along with a reply affidavit and the stand of the Government on the grant of quarrying lease or prospecting license.

The Court further announced that all applications filed for release of seized vehicles or detained vehicles, will be taken up based on the Government's stand and fixed August 7 for the next hearing.


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