Above: A representational picture of sand mining. Photo: facebook

The Supreme Court on Wednesday (August 2) came down heavily on illegal mining in Odisha and ordered that a penalty of 100 percent will be imposed on all companies and persons involved in mining in areas outside lease/permitted areas, as well as for mining in excess of what has been allowed.

The Odisha government had imposed a fine of Rs 61,000 crores for illegal mining and the companies had demanded reduction of this fine to 30 percent. The Supreme Court rejected this demand of the companies.

The apex court bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also took a wider view of the entire illegal mining and noted that the National Mineral Policy (NMP) of 2008 needs review.

The court will hear the petitions by four mining companies, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), Rungta Mines Ltd, Sarda Mines Pvt. Ltd and Essel Mining and Industries Ltd. They have appealed to the court seeking permission to resume mining.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also noted that the National Mineral Policy (NMP) of 2008 required review and would accordingly be relooked.

It is not only the Odisha government’s huge fine, but a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause that had brought this to the apex court. The NGO’s counsel, Prashant Bhushan, has been quoted in the media as saying: “Big mining companies will be forced to shell out lakhs of crores as a result of this direction. The quantum that would be payable is yet to be ascertained.”

—India Legal Bureau