High Court overrules Mining Department’s seizure of machineries, mining activities to continue only after obtaining environmental clearances

Rajasthan High Court: The petitioner preferred a criminal misc. petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. against the order passed by learned Additional Session Judge. In this case various vehicles and excavation equipments belonging to the petitioners were seized by the officers of the Mining Department in a joint survey conducted on 24.05.2012.

Learned counsel on behalf of the petitioners submitted that the mining activities conducted by the petitioners were presently at standstill and the petitioners were taking steps for procuring the environmental clearance certificates and they undertook that no mining activity shall take place till appropriate environmental clearance certificates were procured by them. He contended that the petitioners must not be denied from using their vehicles/equipments for the lawful purposes. He further submitted that the Mining Department has given notice to the petitioners for deposition of composition charges and the petitioners are ready to submit bank guarantees against the said composition charges.. He submitted that the petitioners have a right to raise a defense that they are not liable for the offences as alleged by the Department as till date no complaint has been filed against the petitioners in any competent court, therefore, they cannot be forced to make the payment of composition charges. He, thus, prayed that the vehicles/machinery in question be directed to be released to the petitioners, subject to them furnishing commensurate bank guarantees in the trial court.

Learned counsel for the Mining Department vehemently opposed the arguments advanced on behalf of the petitioners. He submitted that the Mining Department had already served notices upon the petitioners to make the payment of the composition charges. However, he did not dispute the fact that till date no complaint for the offences alleged had been filed against the petitioners for violation of the mining lease.

The High Court ruled that the petitioners cannot be denied their right to use vehicles/machinery for lawful purposes and that the claim of the Mining Department towards the composition charges can be secured by taking bank guarantee for the amount from the petitioners. The High Court, allowing the misc. petition, directed the vehicles/machinery in question to be released upon the petitioners furnishing bank guarantee in terms of the composition notices given by the Mining Department along with an undertaking that they shall not use the vehicles/machinery in question for mining activities without following due process of law and without obtaining the requisite clearance certificates. [Shyam Lal v. State of Rajasthan through Public Prosecutor, Mining Engineer, Mines and Geology Department, Jodhpur, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2402, decided on 5.7.2017.]

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