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Compensation / Penalty Cannot Be Restricted To Value Of Illegally-Mined Mineral; Cost Of Restoration Of Environment Also To Be Considered: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
11 Nov 2021 1:17 PM GMT
Compensation / Penalty Cannot Be Restricted To Value Of Illegally-Mined Mineral; Cost Of Restoration Of Environment Also To Be Considered: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that the compensation / penalty to be paid by those indulging in illegal sand mining cannot be restricted to the value of illegally-mined mineral.The cost of restoration of environment as well as the cost of ecological services should be part of the compensation, the bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai observed. The polluter,...

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The Supreme Court observed that the compensation / penalty to be paid by those indulging in illegal sand mining cannot be restricted to the value of illegally-mined mineral.

The cost of restoration of environment as well as the cost of ecological services should be part of the compensation, the bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai observed. The polluter, according to the court, is liable to pay the cost to the individual sufferers as well as the cost of reversing the damaged ecology.

Taking note of the scale of the issue of illegal sand mining in the State of Rajasthan, the court had directed the Central Empowered Committee ("CEC") to submit a report on the problems relating to sand mining that are faced by traders, consumers, transporters, the State and other stakeholders and also on measures to stop illegal sand mining. The Court noticed that, in its report, the CEC has recommended imposition of exemplary penalty of Rs.10 lakh per vehicle and Rs.5 lakh per cubic metre of sand seized, which would be in addition to what has already been ordered / collected by the State agencies as compensation. In this context, the court observed thus:

"Compensation / penalty to be paid by those indulging in illegal sand mining cannot be restricted to the value of illegally-mined minerals. The cost of restoration of environment as well as the cost of ecological services should be part of the compensation. The "Polluter Pays" principle as interpreted by this Court means that the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation. Remediation of the damaged environment is part of the process of "Sustainable Development" and as such the polluter is liable to pay the cost to the individual sufferers as well as the cost of reversing the damaged ecology"

The court, however, noticed that , the basis for imposition of exemplary penalty of Rs. 10 lakh per vehicle and Rs. 5 lakh per cubic metre of sand has not been stated by the CEC in its report. The CEC is directed to follow the directions given by the NGT in respect of imposition of penalty / determining scale of compensation for illegal mining and the provisions of the 2020 Sand Mining Guidelines and determine the penalty / compensation afresh and submit a report to this Court within a period of eight weeks from today, the court ordered. The judgment also observed the damage caused to the environment due to rampant unscientific illegal mining. It said:

Unabated illegal mining has resulted in the emergence of sand mafia who have been conducting illegal mining in the manner of organized criminal activities and have been involved in brutal attacks against members of local communities, enforcement officials, reporters and social activists for objecting to unlawful sand excavation. The statistics provided by the State Government highlights the magnitude of the problem as about 2411 FIRs have been registered in relation to illegal mining in the State of Rajasthan, between 16.11.2017 and 30.01.2020. When this Court has restrained 82 mining lease / quarry holders from carrying on mining of sand and bajri unless a scientific replenishment study is completed and EC is issued by the MoEFCC, the State of Rajasthan ought not to have issued mining leases in favour of the Khatedars. It is clear from the report of the CEC that the majority of the Khatedari leases are within 100 metres from the river bed. The 2020 Sand Mining Guidelines prescribe that mining plan for mining leases on Khatedari lands shall only be approved if there is a possibility of replenishment of the mineral or when there is no possibility of river bed mining within 5 km of the patta land / Khatedari land. Agreeing with the CEC's conclusions on the issue of mining leases in Khatedari lands facilitating legalisation of transportation and sale of illegally extracted sand, we approve the recommendation of the CEC that all Khatedari leases which are located within 5 km from the river bed and those leases where lease conditions have been violated have to be terminated forthwith and that Khatedari leases shall be granted only with the permission of this Court



Case name and Citation: Bajri Lease LoI Holders Welfare Society vs State of Rajasthan | LL 2021 SC 638

Case no. and Date: IA 29984 of 2021 in SLP(C) 10587 of 2019 | 11 November 2021

Coram: Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai

Click here to Read/Download Judgment


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