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Orissa High Court: Dr Akshaya Kumar Mishra, J. quashed lower court proceedings partially and directed to proceed the matter under the Penal Code.

The present case relates to an FIR lodged by the Mining Officer, Office of the Deputy Director of Mines, Koira Circle, Sundargarh alleging that Ajay Mineral & Steels (P) Ltd. procured a certain metric ton of Iron ore lumps in an unauthorized manner for crushing and conversation purpose. The FIR was registered under Section 379 and Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 21 of Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (‘MMDR’). Upon investigation of the matter, a charge sheet was submitted basing upon which the learned Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Bonai took cognizance of the matter and nine of the accused persons including the present four petitioners were issued for initiation of the proceedings against them.

Sanjit Mohanty, S.P. Panda, S. Pattnaik, and P.K. Muduli, learned counsels representing the petitioners submitted that the police had no jurisdiction to try the case under the MMDR Act and the matter needs to be quashed due to the entire proceedings being illegal in nature. The Advocates also relied on the decision Surendra Kumar Agarwal v. State of Orissa (2009) 44 OCR 232.

Additional Government Advocate representing the respondent, D.K. Praharaj placing reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Sanjay, (2014) 9 SCC 772 stated that the proceedings should continue due to the case being registered under Section 379 IPC.

The High Court referred to the cited judgments wherein Surendra Kumar Agarwal it has been held that “provisions contained in Section 22 of the MMDR Act and Rule 15 of the 2007 Rules, makes it abundantly clear that no Court shall take cognizance of offence punishable under the said Act or the 2007 Rules made thereunder, except upon a complaint in writing made by the competent authority or person authorized in that behalf by the Central Government or the State Government.” However, as an Apex Court decision shall take priority over a High Court judgment the present court took into consideration the decision of the Apex Court which stated that “Considering the principles of interpretation and the wordings used in Section 22, in our considered opinion, the provision is not a complete and absolute bar for taking action by the police for illegal and dishonestly committing theft of minerals including sand from the riverbed.” It also held that “the prohibition contained in Section 22 of the Act against prosecution of a person except on a complaint made by the officer is attracted only when such persons is sought to be prosecuted for contravention of Section 4 of the Act and not for any act or omission which constitutes an offence under the Penal Code.”

High Court quashed the lower court order partially stating that for want of complaint, the offence for contravention of Section 4 of MMDR Act cannot be proceeded with and thereby only proceedings under Section 379 of the IPC shall be proceeded with accordingly.[Ramesh Ku. Agarwal v. State of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 226, decided on 09-07-2019]