WP No 114/2014
Writ against Illegal Mining in the State of Odisha
In the context of a public outcry over massive mining scandals in various parts of the country, the Government of India had set up the Justice M. B. Shah Commission of Inquiry in November 2010 to inquire into the illegal mining, trade and transportation of iron ore and manganese ore, identify the deficiencies in the systems of management and regulation, and assess their overall impact in terms of environmental damage, prejudice to livelihoods and other rights of the local populations, and the financial losses caused to the Central and State Governments. The Commission’s reports on mining in Goa, (March-April 2012), brought to light massive illegalities in the extraction of iron and manganese ores. The Commission next submitted a 5 volume report on the mining sector in Orissa in July 2013 and sought a further extension of one year to complete its inquiry in other major mining areas. The Government, however, refused to extend its term beyond October 2013. Before it was wound up, the Commission submitted its report on mining in the state of Jharkhand (4 volumes), along with the second report on Orissa (3 volumes) and the third report on Goa. The Commission’s first report on Orissa, documents the reckless plunder of the nation’s mineral wealth and the flagrant violation of the laws relating to mining and environment protection and the fundamental rights of the local populations. The Government has resisted the demands for placing the Orissa report in the public domain. It has also failed to take any action on the findings of the report, or to lay it in Parliament along with an Action Taken Report (ATR) within six months of its submission as per the prescribed procedure. Common Cause has filed before the apex court, a writ on the substantive issues highlighted in the Orissa reports, to force the hand of the UOI and to seek urgent judicial intervention in the matter.
Our petition was taken up on April 21, 2014. The Court issued notice to the respondents and directed the CEC to submit a report on the averments made in the PIL and provide a list of mines involved in illegal mining. On May 16, 2014, in the light of the CEC’s report on the status of mining leases and approvals in Odisha, the Court granted an interim stay on the operation of 26 mines, which were being worked on the basis of second and subsequent deemed renewals of lease, and directed the State Government to dispose of all renewal applications as per the law within six months.
This matter was taken up by the apex Court on March 25, 2015 on an IA filed by Sarda Mine’s pleading permission to resume mining operations which had been suspended since April 2014. The Court directed the petitioners to file a rejoinder within a week, which has since been filed. This matter was last listed on March 16, 2016.