‘If the life of the environmental clearance is curtailed due to operation of the law, then so be it.’
While considering the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) report on illegalities involved in the mining lease of Sarda Mines Private Limited (SMPL), the Supreme Court reiterated that environmental clearance cannot have any retrospective effect and it is operational from the date it is granted.
The bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta was dealing with submissions made on behalf of SMPL was that the benefit of retrospectivity of the environmental clearance should be given to SMPL from the date on which the mining lease was renewed. It was contended that if the environmental clearance is not given retrospective effect, then it would mean that its validity would not be co-extensive with the term of the mining lease and thus the operation of the environmental clearance though granted for the life of the mining lease would necessarily be curtailed to the detriment of SMPL.
“This submission is noted only to be rejected. The submission made can hardly be a ground for giving retrospective effect to the environmental clearance. If the life of the environmental clearance is curtailed due to operation of the law, then so be it,” the bench said.
The bench then asked the CEC to quantify the penalty to be imposed on SMPL from 22 September 2004, and based on the terms of the environmental clearance. “The calculation should also take into consideration our conclusion that the environmental clearance is not retrospective and the first year of production, in view of the environmental clearance granted to SMPL would be 2004-2005. Any mining in excess of the environmental clearance by SMPL would be and is illegal,” it added.
Another issue dealt in this judgment was whether, in terms of environment clearance, SMPL was entitled to extract iron ore (lump) or mineral iron ore, within the limits laid down in the environmental clearance. The bench found that the environmental clearance granted to SMPL was only with reference to iron ore ROM and not iron ore (lump).
The court directed the CEC to rework the quantum of excessive or illegal mining carried out by SMPL and the consequent penalty.