SC notice to Goa on plea challenging renewal of mining leases

Renewal of 89 mining leases by Goa government has come under scanner.

PTI| Last Updated: Nov 17, 2015, 18:52 PM IST

New Delhi: Renewal of 89 mining leases by Goa government has come under scanner with the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking response from the state and several mining companies on petitions challenging their renewal.

A bench of Justices J S Khehar and R Banumathi issued notices to the state government and 89 mining firms while directing them to file response on the pleas by December 1.

It also directed the Goa government to produce all records and files related to the mining lease before it.

The bench was hearing pleas by NGO Goa Foundation and others who had approached the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court judgement directing Goa government to renew the leases in favour of mining companies that had paid the stamp duty in accordance with the Goa Mineral Policy, 2013.

The high court had also held the government could not retract its promise as it is stopped by the doctrine of "promissory estoppel" after promising execution of mining leases under Section 8(3) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, contended that the apex court had last year ordered that all mining licences granted for 50 years which had expired in 2007 shall not be given automatic renewal.

"The mining leases could not have been renewed in light of law declared by this court in the allocation of spectrum (2G scam) and Presidential Reference. Directly or indirectly you have to maximise the revenue of the state. Second renewal beyond 20 years is exceptional and state government has not recorded appropriate reasons for the same," he said seeking quashing of the mining leases.

The mining firms should stand in queue for competitive bidding along with other applicants and apply to get environment clearance afresh. The Goa government, however, violated the order and allowed the miners to operate without auction or competitive bid, he said.

Bhushan said that by flouting the court order and environment regulations, the state government, which holds natural resources like minerals, has only benefited profit- maximising companies, ignoring public welfare and social good.

The matter is listed for final hearing on December 9.