Supreme Court: Concerned over a mining scandal of enormous proportions involving megabucks in the State of Odisha, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said that though the Court cannot lay down limits on the extent of mining activities that should be permitted by the State of Odisha or by the Union of India, this is an aspect that needs serious consideration by the policy and decision makers in our country in the governance structure. The Court hence, directed the Union of India to revisit the National Mineral Policy, 2008 and announce a fresh and more effective, meaningful and implementable policy within the next few months and in any event before 31st December, 2017.
Taking note of the indiscriminate mining operations in Odisha, the Court said there is no effective check on mining operations nor is there any effective mining policy. Regarding the National Mineral Policy, 2008, the Court said that the same seems to be only on paper and is not being enforced perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve. The Court also said that the Policy was almost a decade old and the variety of changes that have taken place since then, including the advent of rapacious mining in several parts of the country, it was necessary that a new updated Policy was brought in.
Directing the constitution of an Expert Committee under the guidance of a retired Supreme Court judge for identifying the lapses that have occurred over the years enabling rampant illegal or unlawful mining in Odisha and measures to prevent this from happening in other parts of the country, the Court said that undoubtedly, there have been very serious lapses that have enabled large scale mining activities to be carried out without forest clearance or environment clearance and eventually the persons responsible for this will need to be booked but as mentioned above, the violation of the laws and policy need to be prevented in other parts of the country. The rule of law needs to be established.
The Court issued the above directions in the light of the rapaciously mining of iron ore and manganese in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj in Odisha that has apparently destroyed the environment and forests and has caused untold misery to the tribals in the area. [Common Cause v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 857, decided on 02.08.2017]