SC restraints MP govt from granting mining licences

The Supreme Court restrained the Madhya Pradesh government from processing applications and granting fresh mining leases in the state.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained Madhya Pradesh government from processing applications and granting fresh mining leases in the state which is going to Assembly polls in November.

A bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice and sought response of the state government on the allegation that the Mines and Minerals Department, which had not granted licences for mining for five to eight years, decided to consider a large number of applications within three days to avoid the model code of conduct.

The Bhopal-based NGO --Parishram Samaj Evam Kalyan Samiti --challenged the order of the Madhaya Pradesh High Court which had on September 16 dismissed its petition on the first hearing.

The NGO has also made the state`s Minister of Mines and Minerals Resources Rajendra Kumar Shukla, Election Commission of India, State Election Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation as respondents in the appeal.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, submitted it was learnt from various public sources that on three dates in succession, i.e. on August 20 and 27 and on September 3 the Mines and Mineral Department took up a total of around 140 files relating to different areas along with around 1200 applications filed for grant of mineral concessions of major minerals, like iron ore, bauxite, manganese, etc.

It was submitted that the MP minister was about to grant over 100 leases out of 1100 applications pending for the last eight years realising that the model code of conduct would come into force from September last week.

"This was also in violation of the model code of conduct, since now elections have been announced," the counsel said.

The counsel said these files, along with separate applications, were heard by the minister himself and orders reserved.

"It would be worthwhile to mention that general elections to the state Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh are due on November 25, 2013 and for that the model code of conduct would be implemented in September last week, after which passing of any kind administrative order comes to a standstill," the application states.

The petitioner said that because the high court had failed to appreciate that the NGO had not challenged the final order of mineral grants but challenged the whole process and the manner in which, immediately before imposition of the model code of conduct, such a large number of cases were taken up by the minister, which was humanly impossible.

"The writ petition was concerning the larger issue of transparency and probity in the distribution of state largesse in the form of mineral concessions, like mining lease and prospecting licence," the petition said.