Illegal sand mining, which could cause irreparable damage to the environment, is rampant in Rajasthan and should not be allowed to continue, a dismayed Supreme Court said on Wednesday, ordering a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the issue and suggest preventive measures.
The CEC, the court said, should consider the views of sand miners, consumers, transporters and other stakeholders and submit a report to the court within six weeks. “It would be necessary for the CEC to go into illegal mining and suggest preventive measures for stopping illegal mining,” the order said.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde also directed state authorities to take steps to stop illegal mining.
“We find that it is not disputed that illegal sand mining is rampant in Rajasthan. This cannot be allowed to continue. We, therefore, direct the state, collectors and superintendent of each district to take steps to stop illegal mining,” the order said.
The bench, which also comprised justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, ordered the state government to submit an action taken report within four weeks detailing the steps ordered to curb illegal sand mining.
The order was passed during the hearing of appeals against a 2019 Rajasthan high court judgment, which had turned down a plea by holders of letter of intent (LoI) challenging conditions mandated by the Rajasthan government for obtaining mining leases.The LoI had stated the government’s in-principle intent to grant them mining licences.
The Rajasthan government had, on February 28, 2017, brought into force the Rajasthan Minor Mineral Concession Rules. These rules provided that the conditions specified in an LoI for obtaining mining leases should be fulfilled within a period of one year from the date of commencement of the rules, failing which the rights of LoI holders would be forfeited.
The LoI itself was issued to mining firms in 2012 subject to them fulfilling certain conditions which included procurement of environmental clearance (EC) from the Union ministry of enviro
However, the top court, by its November 2017 order, restrained all the 82 LoI holders from carrying out mining of the sand unless the replenishment study was completed and EC granted or rejected.