High court quashes Centre's mine order

Mining lease 'State largesse', says HC

By LALMOHAN PATNAIK in Cuttack
  • Published 10.01.17
  •  

Cuttack, Jan. 9: Orissa High Court has made it clear that mining lease "is a State largesse over which no individual can have monopoly".

While endorsing the state government's decision to cancel mining lease to one Dharam Chand Jain as "a well reasoned order", the high court quashed the Centre's order allocating the mine to his widow.

The court in its order said: "There ought to be transparency and equal distribution of State largesse with the paramount objective being to further community and State interest."

The court gave its ruling in a case in which the state government revoked the grant of mining lease for iron and manganese ore over an area of 637 acres in Keonjhar's Siddhamath reserve forest after finding that the mining lease had not been executed even after 25 years.

The lease was granted on June 5, 1984, in favour of Dharam Chand Jain who died on December 9, 1995. The state government revoked the mining lease on July 20, 2012, while refusing grant the lease in favour of his widow Sobha Jain.

Subsequently, on June 8, 2015, the Centre set aside the state government's order after Sobha had challenged it. The state government had challenged the Centre's decision in the high court.

In its verdict, the division bench of Chief Justice Vineet Saran and Justice B.R. Sarangi said: "Idling of State largesse is not in public interest. It would be in public interest to notify the granted area so that opportunity is accorded to all interested for grant of mining lease."

"Within the last 25 years, ever since issuance of the grant order, competition has increased and there is increased need of raw material for the manufacturing facilities that have been established within the State", the court observed in its December 19 order, the full text of which was available today.

The high court held that the central government had "limited jurisdiction" and "within its limited compass of its jurisdiction" it did not have the sanction to interfere in the order passed by the state government.

The high court further indicted the Centre for not dealing with the detailed reasons given by the state government with regard to undue delay in execution of lease after the order of grant was issued in June 1984.

Moreover, the period of 12 years from 1997 to 2009 dealt with by the state government was "cursorily considered" and "brushed aside" by the Centre.