Central Govt’s approval necessary for reservation of lands under Mines & Minerals Act for State Govt owned & controlled companies & corporations: SC

Supreme Court: In the case where the role and power of the Central Government while dealing with the request of a State Government for reservation of lands for government companies or corporations owned and controlled by the State Government under Section 17A(2) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957 was in question, the Bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ held

“The State Government being the owner of the land and minerals, has a right to make a proposal to the Central Government to reserve lands not held under a prospecting licence or mining lease for exploitation by the State Government companies or undertakings but approval of the Central Government is necessary.”

The Court further clarified that each case has to be decided on its own merits and that the Central Government cannot be bound by any specific parameters. However, the Central Government can not only take into consideration factors of national security or public interest but also economic factors, the policy of the Government and all such other factors which are relevant to decide the issue whether the land should be reserved for exploitation only by State Government Undertakings;

Regarding the question as to the scope of applicability of Section 11(1) and Section 17A(2) of the Act and the effect of the right of preference granted to Reconnaissance Permit holder in terms of Section 11(1) of the Act while dealing with a matter under Section 17A(2) of the Act, the Court held that  Section 11(1) and Section 17A(2) of the Act have no connection with each other. Section 11(1) of the Act deals with preference to be given to Reconnaissance Permit holder and Prospecting Licence holder while considering their case for grant of Prospecting Licence and Mining Lease respectively. This has nothing to do with reservation of land under Section 17A(2) of the Act. The only connection, if it can be called that, is that if a land is held under a Prospecting Licence or Mining Lease, then action under Section 17A(2) of the Act cannot even be initiated. [Geomysore Services (I) Pvt. Ltd.v. Hutti Goldmines Co. Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine SC 503, decided on 08.05.2018]

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