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Supreme Court directs Union govt to conduct independent study on need for cap on iron ore

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to conduct an independent evaluation in order to ascertain whether a cap on iron ore mining was needed to be imposed in the State of Odisha.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra passed the orders on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Common Cause on illegal mining in the State of Odisha

The Apex Court had asked the Centre during the previous hearing to consider whether a cap on iron ore mining needs to be imposed in the State of Odisha as was done for Karnataka and Goa.

It noted today that an independent evaluation by MoEFCC was necessary as the decision was bound to affect issues such as sustainable development and intergenerational equity.

Representing the Union of India, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati submitted an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Mines, Government of India in the matter.

However, the Bench pointed out that the perspective of the Ministry of Mine alone would not be enough to determine what was to be done in the matter.

It said the Ministry of Mines would only be looking at it from the point of view of capping of resources and how can the resources be used for development of the country. However, it would not give information on environmental issues like sustainable development and intergenerational equity.

The Bench said that for the enforcement of the previous order dated August 14, 2023, an affidavit has been filed by the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Mines of the Union government.

It said since several aspects engaging attention of the court would have a bearing on sustainable development and intergenerational equity, an affidavit should be filed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change bearing in mind the directions of August 14. The affidavit should be filed based on the MoEFCC’s independent evaluation, it added.

The State of Odisha had earlier informed the Court that on account of illegal mining an amount of Rs 2,622 crore was outstanding, out of which an amount of Rs 2,215 crore was to be recovered from five lessees.

The Counsel for the Orissasaid the leases of defaulters had either expired or have been terminated and they are not operating any lease or allowed to participate in tenders.

(Case title: Common Cause v Union Of India and Ors)

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