M A I N   N E W S

HC clears auction of mines in 5 Punjab dists
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 14
After digging deep into the mining activity in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today gave the go-ahead to the auction of mines in five districts — Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ropar, Mohali and Nawanshahr — but not before passing strictures on the government.

Visibly annoyed, the Bench admonished the government for issuing statements that mining activity in the state had been stayed by the high court. The Bench verbally observed the government has been issuing statement that illegal mining and artificial rate hike was due to high court orders. The authorities should own up their responsibility, instead of making such comments.

Dictating the orders in the open court this afternoon, the Judges made it clear that the Bench’s endeavour was only to ensure the undertaking of mining after obtaining requisite permissions and following the rules, which was not being done.

Taking up a bunch of petitions filed through Mansur Ali, Gurminder Singh and other counsel, the high court permitted the government to initiate the process of putting under hammer 25 mining queries in five district of the state.

The Bench, at the same time, directed the adoption of close and strict monitoring system for mining. The Bench asserted environment impact assessment committee would grant permission in each case so that there was no environmental degradation.

The Bench, headed by Justice Rajive Bhalla, also observed in the open court their impression was that mining was being undertaken contrary to the rules. The system of issuing manual slips for lifting minerals from the queries was actually being misused.

The Bench also directed the authorities to install a weighing machine at the query itself. The electronic machine should keep a track of each vehicle’s weight as it went in and out, and the record of the same should not only be maintained in the contractor’s computer, but also in computers of the Mining Department.

The Bench was of the view illegal mining had flourished due to non-compliance of rules by the state government or delay in granting requisite permissions. Taking into consideration a request by Punjab Pollution Control Department counsel AR Takkar, the Bench directed the trial courts to avoid releasing vehicles and equipment used for illegal mining. The accused should feel a financial burn; and these items could be auctioned, the Bench observed.

The high court had in August imposed complete ban on mining without environmental clearance in operational quarries of up to five hectares in Punjab. A Division Bench had issued the directions after counsel for the Union Government said the orders passed by the Supreme Court made clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests mandatory.

THE verdict

  • Strict monitoring system should be adopted to control mining activity in the state
  • Environment impact assessment committee should grant permission in each case
  • Weighing machines should be installed at the quarry and the weight of vehicles should be noted both at the time of coming in and going out
  • The vehicles and equipment used for illegal mining should be auctioned, and not released to the accused





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