Uttarakhand High Court directs State to publish all mining and dredging plans on website
The State Government has been directed by the Uttarakhand High Court directed the state government to publish the mining, as well as, dredging plans of all mining and dredging activities being undertaken in the State, on the official website of the State, so that the public at large can access the same.
All such plans shall also be displayed, in the area of mining/ dredging, on advertising sites/ unipoles, providing the contact details of all the members of the District Anti Illegal Mining Force.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Alok Kumar Verma further directed the state to create a portal, where all complaints about illegal mining and dredging can be lodged by the public at large, and the State shall create a system for redressing all such complaints expeditiously.
Steps in this regard be taken before the next date, and compliance reported on affidavit before the next date.
The High Court heard a public interest litigation complaining that a large scale unauthorised and illegal mining is continuing on the riverbed of River ‘Kosi’.
C.S. Rawat, Chief Standing Counsel submitted that the Mining Rules were amended, and for this reason, it was not considered necessary to constitute the said District Anti Illegal Mining Force. He has referred to Rule 14(8) of the Uttarakhand Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2021 dated 10.11.2021. Rule 14(8) of the said Rules talks about the constitution of a Monitoring Cell at the level of the Directorate.
The Bench is not satisfied with the explanation furnished by the respondents for non-compliance of the directions issued by the Court in its judgment dated 03.09.2019, in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 107 of 2018. The Monitoring Cell, provided for in Rule 14(8) of the aforesaid Rules, is not a substitute for constitution of the District Anti Illegal Mining Force. The complaints about illegal mining arise, for the reason, that there is lack of monitoring and supervision by the authorities entrusted with the task of preventing and checking illegal mining in the first place. For there to be an effective task force to deal with illegal mining, it is essential that in each district, an Anti Illegal Mining Force should be constituted, which should have participation of the local and environmentally aware population. It is only the vigilance of the local population, which can provide an effective check on illegal mining, since the authorities appear to be not properly equipped, or are insufficient in number, to deal with actual illegal mining on the ground.
‘We say this with a sense of dismay, that the very authorities, who are entrusted with the task of preventing illegal mining, are sometimes involved in carrying on of such activities in connivance with those indulging in illegal mining. We have seen in several cases, the photographs placed on record, which show rampant illegal mining being carried out in the State. It is there, for all to see. The result of such illegal mining is the increase in deforestation, erosion of soil, and increase in landslides being experienced in the State.’
The submission of Rawat is that the situation in the present case is different from the one dealt with in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 47 of 2022, because that case related to dredging in the river passing through the Nandaur Wildlife Sanctuary. This submission cannot be accepted, for the reason, that we took note of the legal provisions, which render the activity of dredging by the contractor, who also has the right to remove and exploit the silt and RBM commercially, as mining.
In the light of the aforesaid, the Bench directed that the dredging activity, in terms of the Auction Notice dated 10.03.2023, shall not be carried out until the District Anti Illegal Mining Force, in terms of this order, has been constituted.
The High Court granted the respondents two weeks’ time to constitute District Anti Illegal Mining Forces in all the Districts of the State, in terms of the order dated 03.09.2019 passed in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 107 of 2018, “Milakh Raj v. State of Uttarakhand and others”. The said District Anti Illegal Mining Force should include the Gram Pradhans of the villages falling in the district. Apart from the Gram Pradhans, one person shall be nominated in each District Anti Illegal Mining Force, who belongs to the district, and who has interest in maintaining the ecology of the area. Nomination of such a person shall be made by the District Magistrate concerned, on the basis of the credentials of such a person – determined by taking into account his/ her activities in relation to preservation of environment in the State. The District Anti Mining Forces, for each district shall be notified within two weeks and also uploaded on the official website of the respondent State. The views and complaints, about illegal mining within the area of their authority and jurisdiction, should be seriously examined.
Matter is listed on 06.04.2023 for further hearing.