The Supreme Court on 2 August imposed 100% penalty on mining lease holders operating without necessary clearance in the state of Odisha.
A two-member apex court bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta asked the companies, which have been served the demand notice by the Odisha government, to deposit the due on or before December 31. The companies include big names like that of the Tata Steel, Essel Mining & Industries Ltd, Indrani Patnaik, Rungta Mines, Serajuddin & Company and even state run entities like Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).
However, no CBI enquiry has been directed by the Court. An expert committee is proposed to be formed which would be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to look into what made illegal mining so rampant in Odisha and elsewhere, and simultaneously identify the lapses.
The court’s direction was based on a Public Interest Litigation filed by the watchdog group Common Cause, that demanded action in 2014 against leases pointed out as violating the law by the Justice MB Shah Commission on illegal mining.
“Big mining companies will be forced to shell out lakhs of crores as a result of this direction. The quantum that would be payable is yet to be ascertained,” Prashant Bhushan, the petitioner’s counsel reportedly said.
The state government had imposed about Rs 60,000 crore penalty on mines for illegal mining between 2000 and 2010. However, the Central Empowered Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, has recommended that at least 30% notional value should be extracted from the mining companies itself. The CEC report has found out that 131 iron ore and manganese ore mines did not have statutory approval and were operating despite the lapse of a lease.
The court in its report said that the mining companies are supposed to pay their dues on or before 31 December. The mining companies can only re-start their operations subject to and only after full payment of compensation and other dues by the statutory requirements.
The court also directed the Centre to have a fresh look at the National Mineral Policy, 2008 and complete the exercise by 31 December.
Mines director Deepak Mohanty has assured that the due amount will be collected from the mining companies and if required legal help will also be sought.
Prabodh Mohanty, Eastern Zonal Mining Association (EZMA) general secretary, has pointed out that the leaseholders are in no position to pay the penalty to the state government, because out of 187 mines, 102 are closed. He said while speaking to Hindustan Times, “We are examining the court order. If required, we may move the Supreme Court and file a review petition in this regard.”
The Logical Indian community welcomes the decision of the apex court that would be serving as a major blow to illegal mining scenes in Odisha and also in rest of India. We hope that the expert committee can find out the reasons behind the widespread illegal mining.