Shimla, Jan 12
Himachal Pradesh High Court casted an aspersion on the Jai Ram Thakur Government of Himachal Pradesh in a 36 paged order related to illegal mining, stating that a bad workman quarrels with his tools. The Division bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua disposed off a civil writ petition on Jan 5 made the remarks in very first line of 36 paged order that ” A bad workman quarrels with his tools”, the saying aptly applies to the stand taken by the State in the instant case to justify omission of its officials for not ensuring compliance to the statute and rule framed there under.
What is the matter?
The complaint in the writ petition filed before the court said that various developmental activities in the state like construction of roads, buildings, power projects etc, are being executed through private contractors or companies. These contractors or firms supply minor minerals to the state government. Adding, that bills for the minor minerals are submitted by them without disclosing the legal source of minor minerals like sand, Bajari, stone, gravel and boulders etc. The petitioner prayed that the state department should not be allowed to clear such bills without asking the contractor to produce transport other mining permits mandatorily required under 2015 rules as they have to submit the M-Forum for the purpose.
The complaint said that it was for state officials of the department to see that transported minor minerals were accompanied with (W/X Form)-transit pass. By simply charging royalty on the transported mineral, the source of mineral could not be detected, petitioner added. The petitioner alleged State could not legalise the transported mineral without verifying the source of the extracted mineral supplied by the contractors. Adding,” The attitude of the State government in ignoring the 2015 rules, only results in illegal and unscientific mining, unlawful exploitation of State’s natural resources, adversely affecting the environment and ecology.”
The petitioner had opposed the contention of state government to remove riders on the contractors about revealing the lawful source of procurement of the material supplied for Government projects/works.
The petitioner’s claim also gets more traction with reference to a reply by the State government in the State Vidhan Sabha. In a reply given to query raised by the Congress member Asha Kumari on Dec 15 State had stated that it would ensure early release of payment of many contractors by seeking vacation of the order of relaxing condition of M-form (material forum) due to which the payment is pending with the Public works department since years.
Double bench of the High court directed:
The court said that concerned officers and the concerned departments should ensure compliance of Himachal Pradesh Minor Minerals (Concession) and Minerals (Prevention) of illegal mining Transportation and Storage Rule 2015 so that illegally extracted material does not get transported. Here the court held that under the existing provisions of mining laws no minor mineral would be be allowed to be transported unless and until it is accompanied with transit pass, mandated under the Rules. In case of transport of minor mineral procured from outside the State, compliance of procedure mandated in 2015 Rules should be ensured.
In case minor mineral generated at the worksite etc. is intended to be used at the worksite without transporting the mineral, then the concerned officials will ensure due compliance of Rule and other applicable provisions of 2015 Rules before allowing such use.
In case the authorised officials detects transport of minor mineral in violation of 2015 Rules, prompt action in accordance with 2015 Rules shall be taken against the offenders.
Responsibility and accountability of concerned officials shall also be fixed in case of omission to ensure compliance of the Rules.
No bill of the contractor for transport or supply of the minor mineral, which in terms of 2015 rules is required to be carried with transit passes etc. should be cleared by any State department or authority unless it is accompanied by transit pass- Form W/X etc. duly issued by the competent authority, stated the court.
Giving solution about the long pending such bills of contractors, the court added
With respect to the bills of the contractors pending as on date, the State Public Works Department in consultation with the State Industries Department, would hold inquiry to ascertain the source of transported/supplied minor mineral. Within one week from today, the Principal Secretary, Public Works Department and Principal Secretary, Industries Department shall each nominate two officers of their department for conducting the aforesaid inquiry, directed the court. The concerned contractor should also be associated in the inquiry.
The inquiry should be completed by the officers within two months from today. On conclusion of the inquiry, in case the officials are satisfied that mineral in question transported and supplied was procured from a legal source in accordance with law, then appropriate order should be passed by the competent authority for releasing the payment.
If officials are not satisfied action for violation of Rules as warranted under the 2015 Rules shall be taken against the offenders in accordance with law.
Court directed that the official respondents should ensure that copy of the judgement is circulated to all concerned quarters for compliance.