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The Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 – illegal mining – No show cause notice – Stay granted over the sizer order – Petitioner gave an undertaking – Single judge – gave permission to operate the mine with some directions – State filed Appeal to D.B. – held that Subsequent events can be considered while passing orders – D.B. allowed the appeal with some directions – SLP – for permission to operate the mine – Apex court dismissed the petition confirmed the D.B. bench high court = M/s PRP Exports & Etc. …. Petitioners Verses The Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. …. Respondents = Published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41084

The  Mines  &  Minerals (Development &  Regulation)  Act,  1957 – illegal mining – No show cause notice – Stay granted over the sizer order – Petitioner gave an undertaking – Single judge – gave permission to operate the mine with some directions – State filed Appeal  to D.B. – held that Subsequent events can be considered while passing orders – D.B. allowed the appeal with some directions – SLP –  for permission to operate the mine – Apex court dismissed the petition confirmed the D.B. bench high court = 

Whether the

Petitioners may be allowed to operate the quarries in  accordance  with  the

licences already granted. =

learned Single Judge observed as follows :-

      “124.`  It is also admitted case of the respondents, that  till  date,

      even show cause notice with regard to cancellation of licences granted

      in favour of the petitioner has not been issued, therefore,  there  is

      absolutely no justification with the respondents, to stop  the  mining

      operation  of  the  petitioner  over  the  mines  leased  out  to  the

      petitioner, and thereby taking the right of livelihood of thousands of

      employees working in the firm.”

 

 

4.    After hearing all the parties, the learned Single  Judge  disposed  of

the writ petitions on 2.11.2012.  

The  operative  portion  of  the  judgment

reads as follows :

 

      “130.  However, at the same time, the fact cannot be  lost  sight  off

      that there are number of cases registered against the partners of  the

      petitioner firm, and there are serious allegations of  illegal  mining

      worth of crores of rupees. 

Further more, in the  writ  petitions,  the

      positive stand of the writ petitioner is,  that  the  petitioners  are

      willing to co-operate with the  investigation  of  criminal  cases  in

      respect of furnishing all documents, records, books of accounts  which

      are sealed by the authorities  in  their  presence,  and  has  further

      undertaken not to tamper with any records, and will  not  destroy  any

      evidence whatsoever. 

The petitioner has also undertaken not to  threat

      any witnesses in the investigation. 

Therefore, a blanket order  to  be

      passed in favour of the petitioner may hamper the investigation, which

      cannot be permissible in law.

 

 

      131. Therefore, in order to settle equity, these  writ  petitions  are

      disposed of with the following directions:-

 

 

           1.    The respondents shall permit the  petitioner  to  continue

           the quarry operations over the leased property strictly in terms

           of the lease,  which  is  admittedly  in  force.  It  shall  be,

           however, open to the respondents to take appropriate  action  by

           following  due  process  of  law  under  The  Mines  &  Minerals

           (Development &  Regulation)  Act,  1957  and  the  Rules  framed

           thereunder, if so advised ;

 

 

           2.    The respondents shall henceforth release the bank accounts

           and to  allow  the  petitioner  to  carry  on  his  business  in

           accordance with law. However,  it  shall  be  the  duty  of  the

           petitioners to submit fortnightly Statement of Accounts  to  the

           Investigating Officer;

 

 

           3.    That the order restraining the export and  import  by  the

           Investigating Officer  is  ordered  to  be  quashed  and  it  is

           directed that the respondents shall not interfere in the  export

           and import on valid documents by the petitioner.

 

 

           4.    That the seal of the administrative  building  be  opened,

           after the Investigating  Officer  takes  in  possession  of  the

           documents,  the  computers,  hard  discs,  etc.,  required   for

           investigation. (As agreed between the parties, the petitioner is

           directed to depute two persons  along  with  an  expert,  if  so

           advised  to  be  present  at  the  administrative  building   on

           07.11.2012 (Wednesday) at  10.00  a.m.,  for  handing  over  the

           computers,  hard  discs,  documents,  available  in  the  sealed

           building, after transferring the datas from computers and making

           copies of the documents,  which  are  required  for  running  of

           business). It is made

           clear that the petitioner will be entitled to get copies of  the

           documents lying within the premises and permit the Investigating

           Officer to  take  away  the  Computers,  Hard  discs  and  other

           documents,  which  are  required  for  the  Investigation.  This

           process shall be completed  in  three  days  and  it  should  be

           completed on or before 09.11.2012 (Friday).

 

 

           5.    The Investigating Officer shall permit the  petitioner  to

           carry on their business.

 

 

           6.     With  regard  to  the  vehicles,  equipments  and   other

           accessories seized by the authorities under the  Motor  Vehicles

           Act, or in criminal cases, it shall be open to the petitioner to

           take appropriate remedy  in  accordance  with  law  for  reasons

           thereof.

 

      No costs.”

 

The Division Bench of the Madras High Court formulated  two  questions

which read as follows :

      “(1)  Whether the appellants can  place  reliance  on  the  subsequent

      events, viz., passing of the suspension orders  dated  14.12.2012  and

      the issuance of  the  show  cause  notice  dated  Nil.12.2012  to  the

      respondents/writ petitioners firm? and

 

      (2)   Whether the provisions under the Special Law viz. The Mines  and

      Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and other  Rules,  can

      override the General Law, viz., the penal provisions under the  Indian

      Penal Code and the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure  in

      respect of the initiation of parallel proceedings, viz.,  departmental

      proceedings and criminal proceedings?”

 

 

12.   We find it difficult to accede to that  request  made  by  the  senior

counsel, at this stage,  

especially  in  the  wake  of  the  report  of  the

District Collector dated 19.5.2012 as well  as  the  report  of  the  Deputy

Director of Geology and Mining dated 23.11.2012.  In the affidavit filed  by

the third respondent,  it  is  pointed  out,  that  the  volume  of  illegal

transportation from the  petitioners’  16  quarries  is  around  1207863.164

Cubic Meters and show cause notices have been issued to the Petitioner  firm

under Section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development  and  Regulation)

Act, 1957 for recovery of the cost.  

It is stated  that  the  value  of  the

illicit quarry in  the  16  quarries  alone  comes  around  4124.14  crores.

Further, it was also pointed out  that  other  quarry  operators  have  also

indulged in similar illegal  quarry  operations  and  the  total  volume  of

illegal operations is estimated around  Rs.12390.460  crores.   Further,  it

was also pointed out that  several  criminal  cases  are  also  pending  for

carrying on illegal quarrying operations in the government land.

 

13.   We are of the view that, since  several  writ  petitions  are  pending

consideration before the  High  Court,  at  this  stage,  it  would  not  be

appropriate to pronounce upon the  various  contentions  raised  by  learned

senior counsel on either side on merits  of  the  case,  especially  in  the

light of the materials leading to the  issuance  of  the  suspension  orders

dated 14.12.2012 and the show cause notices  dated  Nil.12.2012.    

We  also

notice that the Division Bench of the High Court has issued  some  equitable

directions taking into consideration the interest of the  workers  and  also

for honouring  some  statutory  obligations  of  the  petitioner  firm.  

We,

therefore, find no reason to interfere  with  the  impugned  judgment  dated

15.2.2013 and the special leave petitions filed against those  orders  stand

dismissed.

 

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) NOS.18662-18663 OF 2013

 

M/s PRP Exports & Etc. …. Petitioners

Verses

The Chief Secretary,
Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. …. Respondents

 
J U D G M E N T
K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.
1. These Special Leave Petitions arise out of a common judgment and
order dated 15.2.2013 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras in
W.A. (MD) Nos.906 and 907 of 2012. The Petitioner is a registered
partnership firm, engaged in the manufacture of dimensional granite blocks,
slabs, tiles, monuments etc. and has set up its factory for cutting and
polishing of granite in Therkkutheru Village, Madurai District. The
Petitioner firm, it is stated, is 100% export oriented unit, recognized by
the Madras Export Processing Zone. The Petitioner firm is having 55 granite
quarries leased in the Madurai District measuring about 584.83 acres.

2. Alleging that the Petitioner firm had indulged in unauthorized
quarrying, the Respondent officials as well as the District Collector and
Superintendent of Police took steps to seal the Petitioners’ factory
premises, vehicles and instruments so as to suspend the quarrying
operations in respect of the above-mentioned quarries. The Petitioners,
therefore, approached the Madras High Court by filing W.P. (MD) Nos.12441
and 12442 of 2012, which were heard by a learned Single Judge.

3. Before the learned Single Judge, the State also took up the stand
that the order of sealing dated 9.8.2012 was illegal and could not be
supported in law. Taking note of the stand taken by the State, the
learned Single Judge observed as follows :-
“124.` It is also admitted case of the respondents, that till date,
even show cause notice with regard to cancellation of licences granted
in favour of the petitioner has not been issued, therefore, there is
absolutely no justification with the respondents, to stop the mining
operation of the petitioner over the mines leased out to the
petitioner, and thereby taking the right of livelihood of thousands of
employees working in the firm.”
4. After hearing all the parties, the learned Single Judge disposed of
the writ petitions on 2.11.2012. The operative portion of the judgment
reads as follows :

“130. However, at the same time, the fact cannot be lost sight off
that there are number of cases registered against the partners of the
petitioner firm, and there are serious allegations of illegal mining
worth of crores of rupees. Further more, in the writ petitions, the
positive stand of the writ petitioner is, that the petitioners are
willing to co-operate with the investigation of criminal cases in
respect of furnishing all documents, records, books of accounts which
are sealed by the authorities in their presence, and has further
undertaken not to tamper with any records, and will not destroy any
evidence whatsoever. The petitioner has also undertaken not to threat
any witnesses in the investigation. Therefore, a blanket order to be
passed in favour of the petitioner may hamper the investigation, which
cannot be permissible in law.
131. Therefore, in order to settle equity, these writ petitions are
disposed of with the following directions:-
1. The respondents shall permit the petitioner to continue
the quarry operations over the leased property strictly in terms
of the lease, which is admittedly in force. It shall be,
however, open to the respondents to take appropriate action by
following due process of law under The Mines & Minerals
(Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Rules framed
thereunder, if so advised ;
2. The respondents shall henceforth release the bank accounts
and to allow the petitioner to carry on his business in
accordance with law. However, it shall be the duty of the
petitioners to submit fortnightly Statement of Accounts to the
Investigating Officer;
3. That the order restraining the export and import by the
Investigating Officer is ordered to be quashed and it is
directed that the respondents shall not interfere in the export
and import on valid documents by the petitioner.
4. That the seal of the administrative building be opened,
after the Investigating Officer takes in possession of the
documents, the computers, hard discs, etc., required for
investigation. (As agreed between the parties, the petitioner is
directed to depute two persons along with an expert, if so
advised to be present at the administrative building on
07.11.2012 (Wednesday) at 10.00 a.m., for handing over the
computers, hard discs, documents, available in the sealed
building, after transferring the datas from computers and making
copies of the documents, which are required for running of
business). It is made
clear that the petitioner will be entitled to get copies of the
documents lying within the premises and permit the Investigating
Officer to take away the Computers, Hard discs and other
documents, which are required for the Investigation. This
process shall be completed in three days and it should be
completed on or before 09.11.2012 (Friday).
5. The Investigating Officer shall permit the petitioner to
carry on their business.
6. With regard to the vehicles, equipments and other
accessories seized by the authorities under the Motor Vehicles
Act, or in criminal cases, it shall be open to the petitioner to
take appropriate remedy in accordance with law for reasons
thereof.

No costs.”

5. The State, aggrieved by the judgment of the learned Single Judge,
preferred Writ Appeal (MD) Nos. 906 and 907 of 2012 before the Division
Bench of the Madras High Court. While dealing with various directions
given by the learned Single Judge, the State represented by the learned
Advocate General, pointed out that, during the pendency of the writ
appeals, suspension orders dated 14.12.2012 were issued under Section 19(2)
of the Granite Conservation and Development Rules, 1999 as well as Show
Cause Notices dated nil.12.2012 were issued to the writ petitioners.
Further, it was also pointed out that the departmental proceedings as well
as the criminal proceedings initiated against the petitioners could not be
hampered by granting permission to them to carry on quarrying operations in
their 56 quarries. The prayer made by the Advocate General was opposed by
counsel appearing for the writ petitioners stating that any action taken
by the Government subsequent to the passing of the order by the learned
Single Judge could not be the basis for testing the correctness, or
otherwise, of the directions given by the learned Single Judge. In
support of that contention, reliance was placed on the judgment of this
Court in Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi &
Ors. [1978) 1 SCC 405].

6. The Division Bench of the Madras High Court formulated two questions
which read as follows :
“(1) Whether the appellants can place reliance on the subsequent
events, viz., passing of the suspension orders dated 14.12.2012 and
the issuance of the show cause notice dated Nil.12.2012 to the
respondents/writ petitioners firm? and

(2) Whether the provisions under the Special Law viz. The Mines and
Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and other Rules, can
override the General Law, viz., the penal provisions under the Indian
Penal Code and the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure in
respect of the initiation of parallel proceedings, viz., departmental
proceedings and criminal proceedings?”
7. Shri Harish Salve, learned senior counsel appearing for the
Petitioner, submitted that he is more concerned with the first question and
arguments were advanced by him as well as Shri C. Sundaram, learned senior
counsel appearing for the State, on that point. In our view, the Division
Bench of the High Court is right in examining the subsequent events as well
in a case where larger public interest is involved. This Court in All
India Railway Recruitment Board v. K. Shyam Kumar [(2010) 6 SCC 614]
distinguished Mohinder Singh Gill’s case (supra), stating when a larger
public interest is involved, the Court can always look into the subsequent
events. Relevant paragraph of the judgment is extracted hereinbelow :-
“45. We are of the view that the decision-maker can always rely upon
subsequent materials to support the decision already taken when larger
public interest is involved. This Court in Madhyamic Shiksha Mandal,
M.P. v. Abhilash Shiksha Prasar Samiti found no irregularity in
placing reliance on a subsequent report to sustain the cancellation of
the examination conducted where there were serious allegations of mass
copying. The principle laid down in Mohinder Singh Gill case is not
applicable where larger public interest is involved and in such
situations, additional grounds can be looked into to examine the
validity of an order. The finding recorded by the High Court that the
report of CBI cannot be looked into to examine the validity of the
order dated 4-6-2004, cannot be sustained.

8. The Government and the District Administration received lot of
complaints with regard to illegal quarrying in the Madurai District, which
led the State Government directing the District Administration to verify
the complaints. The District Collector inspected various quarries and
submitted a preliminary report dated 19.5.2012. Subsequent to the
preliminary report, the District Administration decided to conduct a
comprehensive and scientific survey in all the 175 granite quarries
functioning in the Madurai District. Considering the vast area involved,
the District Administration requested the Commissioner of Geology and
Mining to depute officers from their department for carrying on the
inspection. Consequently, the Commissioner of Geology and Mining vide
proceedings dated 4.8.2012 deputed six Assistant Geologists, two Surveyors
and two Sub Inspectors of Survey from various other Districts to assist the
inspection team constituted by the District Administration. After
conducting a comprehensive and scientific survey, the Deputy Director and
the Assistant Director of Geology and Mining submitted an Evaluation Report
on 23.11.2012 on 88 granite quarries. Among them, 16 quarries belonged to
the Petitioner. The inspection could not be carried out in 22 granite
quarries due to water logging and among that 18 quarries belonged to the
Petitioner.

9. The Deputy Director and the Assistant Director of Geology and Mining
in their Evaluation Report dated 23.11.2012 reported that the Petitioner
firm has not carried out the quarrying operations as per their mining plan
and encroached upon the adjoining roads, tanks, channels and water bodies
and illicitly quarried granites in the adjacent non-leasehold areas also.
Further, it was also pointed out that there is a vast difference between
the quantity permitted by the District Mines office and the quantity
quarried by the Petitioner firm. Consequently, it was pointed out that
they have violated Section 4-(1) and 4-(1A) of the Mines and Minerals
(Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. Further, it was also pointed out
that they have not maintained the boundary stones and the safety distance
and thus violated the Rules 36(4) and 36(1) of the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral
Concession Rules, 1959. It was also pointed out that the Petitioner has
not submitted the Scheme of Mining as per Rules 15 and 18 of the Granite
Conservation and Development Rules, 1999 and has not stored the over burden
and waste materials as earmarked. Various other violations have also been
pointed out.

10. The District Administration then forwarded the Inspection cum
Evaluation Report dated 23.11.2012 to the Commissioner of Geology and
Mining on 4.12.2012 and pointed out that the lessees have not submitted the
scheme of mining as required under sub-rules (2) and (3) of Rule 18 of the
Granite Conservation and Development Rules, 1999 and that the lessees have
carried out large scale unauthorized quarrying in the leasehold area and
the adjoining non-leasehold area. The Commissioner of Geology and Mining
vide its letter dated 6.12.2012 also recommended for further action.
Consequently, under Sub-Rule (2) of Rule 19 of the Granite Conservation and
Development Rules, 1999, the Government suspended the mining operations in
respect of 78 granite quarries of Madurai District and, among the same, 20
quarries belong to the Petitioner firm were suspended on 14.12.2012 and the
copies of the suspension orders were issued to the Petitioner firm.

11. Shri Harish Salve, learned senior counsel appearing for the
Petitioners submitted that the Petitioner has already challenged the
suspension orders in the Madras High Court in W.P. (MD) No.3829 of 2013 and
the connected writ petitions and the Court has granted stay of the
suspension orders and hence the Respondents should have permitted the
Petitioners to operate the granite quarries in the leasehold area. Shri
Salve also submitted that the show cause notices dated 25.2.2013 issued to
the Petitioners are also under challenge in W.P. (MD) No.3012 of 2013 and
other connected cases before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court and
the Court has issued an interim order directing the District Collector not
to pass final orders, pursuant to the suspension orders. The Court also
has reserved its judgment. Learned senior counsel also submitted that a
series of writ petitions are also pending challenging the deemed lapse
notices. In such circumstances, learned senior counsel prayed that the
Petitioners may be allowed to operate the quarries in accordance with the
licences already granted.

12. We find it difficult to accede to that request made by the senior
counsel, at this stage, especially in the wake of the report of the
District Collector dated 19.5.2012 as well as the report of the Deputy
Director of Geology and Mining dated 23.11.2012. In the affidavit filed by
the third respondent, it is pointed out, that the volume of illegal
transportation from the petitioners’ 16 quarries is around 1207863.164
Cubic Meters and show cause notices have been issued to the Petitioner firm
under Section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation)
Act, 1957 for recovery of the cost. It is stated that the value of the
illicit quarry in the 16 quarries alone comes around 4124.14 crores.
Further, it was also pointed out that other quarry operators have also
indulged in similar illegal quarry operations and the total volume of
illegal operations is estimated around Rs.12390.460 crores. Further, it
was also pointed out that several criminal cases are also pending for
carrying on illegal quarrying operations in the government land.

13. We are of the view that, since several writ petitions are pending
consideration before the High Court, at this stage, it would not be
appropriate to pronounce upon the various contentions raised by learned
senior counsel on either side on merits of the case, especially in the
light of the materials leading to the issuance of the suspension orders
dated 14.12.2012 and the show cause notices dated Nil.12.2012. We also
notice that the Division Bench of the High Court has issued some equitable
directions taking into consideration the interest of the workers and also
for honouring some statutory obligations of the petitioner firm. We,
therefore, find no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment dated
15.2.2013 and the special leave petitions filed against those orders stand
dismissed.

………………………….……J.
(K.S. Radhakrishnan)

 
………………………………J.
(A.K. Sikri)
New Delhi
December 13, 2013

 

 

 

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