‘Change Of Bench Doesn’t Entitle One To Relief Denied By Earlier Bench’: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court vacation bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta on Friday refused to accede to the request of holders of leases for mining of iron and manganese ores in Odisha to extend the deadline of December 31 for the payment of penalty imposed by judgment dated August 2 of the apex court for carrying out mining operations in the state without the requisite Environmental Clearance (EC) and Forest Clearance (FC).

In a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, the bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta had on August 2 ruled that any mining conducted in contravention of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of 1994 or EIA of 2006 shall be deemed to be illegal for the purpose of section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957 and compensation at 100% of the price of the mineral so extracted from 2000-01 onwards was directed to be paid. Further, penalty was imposed on the same lines for any mining activity conducted after January 7, 1998 without an FC. The penalty amount was ordered to be deposited by December 31.

Subsequently, the request for extension had also been rejected by the said bench on December 13, observing, “We make it absolutely clear that the mining lease holders must pay compensation and/or other dues / penalty by virtue of the Judgment dated August 2 on or before December 31. If the demanded amounts are not paid on or before December 31, the State of Odisha shall close the mining operations of that mining lease holder”.

The bench had in its judgment dated August 2 noted that according to the Central Empowered Committee report of April, 2014, the total notional value of minerals produced, from the year 2000-01 onwards, without an environmental clearance or in excess of the environmental clearance comes to a total of Rs.17,576.16 crores, excluding mining without forest clearance.

“In respect of the EC, the demand notice by the state of Odisha was raised in September. The penalty of Rs. 1,100 crores has already been deposited in the same behalf. So far as the FC is concerned, the demand notice itself was served in December. Please grant us time till January, 2018 to pay Rs. 1,800 crores in respect thereof”, submitted the counsel making a mention for one of the mining lease holders on Friday.

“We refuse to entertain the request for grant of more time. A change of bench does not entitle one to relief denied by an earlier bench,” remarked the vacation bench on Friday.