The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre's response on a plea seeking a court-monitored SIT or CBI probe into the alleged illegal mining being carried out by the Trimex Group in Andhra Pradesh.
The notice was issued by a bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta on the petition filed by former Energy Secretary EAS Sarma, who was represented by Advocates Pranav Sachdeva and Prashant Bhushan.
Mr. Sarma has alleged that the company has been illegally mining precious minerals in the State, flouting mining laws and environmental safeguards. This, he asserts, has resulted in the loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the government exchequer, as well as destruction of sand dunes, wildlife and ecology.
According to the petition, the company has been carrying out mining activities illegally in an area which is under dispute. Subsequently, Vigilance and Enforcement Department of Government of Andhra Pradesh had also undertaken an enquiry in 2016, recommending recovery of Rs. 1295.63 crores from the company for illegal excavation of beach sand minerals, suspension of mining, and action against officers who allowed illegal mining. However, no action has been taken so far by the authorities on the report.
To bolster his contentions, Mr. Sarma submits a series of time-lapse images obtained using Google Earth software to highlight the “immense level of degradation and destruction” caused by the alleged illegal mining activities carried out by the company between 2010 and 2017.
He further points out several other violations, including illegal mining and export of Monazite, which is a prescribed substance as per notifications issued under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. He submits, “Monazite being a prescribed mineral as per the list of prescribed substances issued by Department of Atomic Energy, is neither allowed to be exported nor sold by private companies. The Vigilance Report had found huge quantity of 9750 MT of Monazite was mined and stored by Trimex Industries in pits under their processing plant, however, till date Central Government (Department of Atomic Energy) has not taken any action to recover the same.”
As per the petition, Mr. Sarma had also made representations to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Mines in April, 2016, with copies to the CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other agencies. Another letter was penned in February 2018, urging the authorities to stop illegal extraction of atomic minerals, particularly to the Trimex Group, but to no avail.
Therefore, he now seeks a direction to the Centre and the State of Andhra Pradesh to terminate the company’s mining leases, as well as undertake a thorough investigation by an SIT or the CBI under the Court’s supervision to probe collusion between private companies and public officials.
Besides, he seeks launching of prosecution against the company under provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. He also seeks a direction to the company to “repair, restore and re-vegetate the area”, and demands recovery of the illegally accumulated wealth through illegal mining by the company.