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Violators Cannot Be Permitted To Go Scot Free On Payment Of Penalty Only: Supreme Court On Compounding Of Offences U/s 23A Mines & Minerals Act

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 Dec 2020 3:54 PM GMT
Violators Cannot Be Permitted To Go Scot Free On Payment Of Penalty Only: Supreme Court On Compounding Of Offences U/s 23A Mines & Minerals Act
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"State should be more sensitive to protect the environment and ecological balance."

There must be some stringent provisions which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before committing such offences and before causing damage to the earth and the nature, remarked the Supreme Court while dealing with a case under Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act.In this case, the Magistrate ordered registration of FIR...

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There must be some stringent provisions which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before committing such offences and before causing damage to the earth and the nature, remarked the Supreme Court while dealing with a case under Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act.

In this case, the Magistrate ordered registration of FIR after taking note of a newspaper report about illegal excavation/transportation of mineral sand from Chambal, Shivna and Retam and other Tributary rivers. Consequently, FIRs were registered under Sections 379 and 414, IPC, Sections 4/21 of the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as the 'MMDR Act') and under Rule 18 of the M.P. Minerals (Prevention of illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2006. The High Court, dismissed the petition seeking quashing of the FIR.

One of the contentions raised by the accused before the Apex Court was that once the proceedings have been compounded under the Act or Rules made thereunder, no further proceedings can lie. In the present case, the offences under the MMDR Act as against the accused were permitted to be compounded by the competent authority

Partly allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court held that in a case where the violator is permitted to compound the offences on payment of penalty as per sub­section1 of Section 23A, considering sub­section 2 of Section 23A of the MMDR Act, there shall not be any proceedings or further proceedings against the offender in respect of the offences punishable under the MMDR Act or any rule made thereunder so compounded. However, the bar under sub­section 2 of Section 23A shall not affect any proceedings for the offences under the IPC, such as, Sections 379 and 414 IPC and the same shall be proceeded with further, it clarified. While holding thus, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah observed:

However, our above conclusions are considering the provisions of Section 23A of the MMDR Act, as it stands today. It might be true that by permitting the violators to compound the offences under the MMDR Act or the rules made thereunder, the State may get the revenue and the same shall be on the principle of person who causes the damage shall have to compensate the damage and shall have to pay the penalty like the principle of polluters to pay in case of damage to the environment. However, in view of the large scale damages being caused to the nature and as observed and held by this Court in the case of Sanjay (supra), the policy and object of MMDR Act and Rules are the result of an increasing awareness of the compelling need to restore the serious ecological imbalance and to stop the damages being 37 caused to the nature and considering the observations made by this Court in the aforesaid decision, reproduced hereinabove, and when the violations like this are increasing and the serious damage is caused to the nature and the earth and it also affects the ground water levels etc. and it causes severe damage as observed by this Court in the case of Sanjay (supra), reproduced hereinabove, we are of the opinion that the violators cannot be permitted to go scot free on payment of penalty only. There must be some stringent provisions which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before committing such offences and before causing damage to the earth and the nature.

The court observed that it is the duty cast upon the State to restore the ecological imbalance and to stop damages being caused to the nature. It said that  excessive instream sand­and­gravel mining from river beds and like resources causes the degradation of rivers. The bench further added:

"It is further observed that apart from threatening bridges, sand mining transforms the riverbeds into large and deep pits, as a result, the groundwater table drops leaving the drinking water wells on the embankments of these rivers dry. Even otherwise, sand/mines is a public property and the State is the custodian of the said public property and therefore the State should be more sensitive to protect the environment and ecological balance and to protect the public property, the State should always be in favour of taking very stern action against the violators who are creating serious ecological imbalance and causing damages to the nature in any form."

The Court said that as the provisions of Section 23A are not under challenge and Section 23A of the MMDR Act so long as it stands, it leaves this issue to the wisdom of the legislatures and the concerned State.

The court noted that, in this case, though the Public Prosecutor appearing on behalf of the State of Madhya Pradesh had supported the order passed by the Magistrate directing to register/lodge FIR,  the State has preferred a separate special leave petition challenging the judgment and order passed by the High Court confirming the order passed by the Magistrate. It is very surprising that despite supporting the order passed by the learned Magistrate before the High Court, the State of Madhya Pradesh has preferred the special leave petition, the bench observed. 

The state had assailed the order passed by the Magistrate, on the ground that it impinges/affects the powers of the authorised person to compound the offence under Rule 18 of the 2006 Rules. The court, however, dismissed the SLP filed by the State.


Case: Jayant vs. State of Madhya Pradesh [CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.824­825 OF 2020]
Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah
Counsel: Sr.Adv Devadatt Kamat 


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