WP 114 of 2014
Odisha Mining Writ against Illegal Mining in 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.
Following the filing of the petition, the operation of 26 illegal mines was stayed. The court in 2016 had directed the states to consider applications of miners filed before January 2015 or 12 months before the expiry of the lease. The court had held that mining leases will not lapse automatically unless the state governments hear the companies and pass orders to that effect.
The Supreme Court on August 2, 2017 imposed a hundred percent penalty on mining companies indulging in illegal mining on account of lack of forest and environment clearances, mining outside lease/permitted area and for mining in excess of what has been allowed. The bench headed by Justice Lokur directed that an Expert Committee be constituted and presided over by a retired judge for identifying the lapses that have occurred over the years that have enabled rampant illegal and unlawful mining in Odisha and to recommend preventive measures not only to the State of Odisha but generally to all other States where mining activities are proceeding on a large scale. The Union of India was directed to have a fresh look at the National Mineral Policy, 2008 which is almost a decade old, particularly with regard to conservation and mineral development and that the exercise should be completed by 31st December, 2017.