The Supreme Court bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta on Thursday, expressing displeasure at the continued mining of minor mineral ‘bajri’ in the state of Rajasthan without any environmental clearances and replenishment studies, restrained 82 mining lease or quarry holders from carrying out mining till the said prerequisites are complied with.
In April 2013, the Rajasthan High Court, hearing a writ petition filed by NGO Nature Club of Rajasthan, had granted six months’ time to the Government of Rajasthan to abide by the Rajasthan Minor Mineral Concession (Amendment) Rules of 2012 in so far as they necessitate environmental clearance certificates and identification of stretches for the grant of mining leases for the excavation of ‘bajri’. The application for extension of time filed by the state government was dismissed by the high court on October 21, 2013. Thereafter, the state of Rajasthan instituted a special leave petition in which an interim order was issued by the Supreme Court that the letter of intent-holders for the grant of leases, who had submitted their applications to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) for the environmental clearance, can carry on mining operations till the procurement of the clearance certificate. Eightly-two miners were given letters of intent by the state government in a bidding process for grant of leases in the respective areas. The letters were issued subject to the conditions of submission of the duly approved mining plan, the environmental clearance certificate from the MoEF & CC and an affidavit in respect of financial assurance. Despite applications in that behalf having been duly filed, the environmental clearance certificates could not be issued on account of the delay in formulating a policy for excavation of ‘bajri’ and the procedure for grant of such certificates.
On Thursday, the bench remarked, “We are horrified with what is happening in the State of Rajasthan with regard to bajri and sand mining. For several months, if not years, without any environmental clearance and without any scientific replenishment study, unabated mining is going on by 82 parties before us.”
The apex court proceeded to observe, “It is quite obvious that the MoEF & CC is not concerned about the degradation of the environment in Rajasthan and what is even worse is that the State of Rajasthan is totally unconcerned about it.”
In the light of the circumstances, the bench restrained with immediate effect the 82 quarry holders from continuing the mining activities until a scientific replenishment study in this respect is completed and the MoEF & CC finally determines the issue of the grant or rejection of the environmental clearances.
In addition, with regard to the serious allegations made that “the state of Rajasthan is complicit with the miners or quarry holders and that sand and bajri is being mined with impunity”, the top court granted four weeks’ time to the Chief Secretary of the state of Rajasthan to file an affidavit in reply.
The matter is next listed for further hearing on November 24.
Read the Order Here