JAMMU, Aug 16: In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding encroachments on banks of river Tawi, Division Bench of High Court comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar has modified order dated 17.11.2016 to the extent it provides for blanket ban on extraction of minor minerals and directed that the relevant authorities of the Government are at liberty to get the minor minerals extracted from River Tawi subject to strict adherence to the Rules of 2016 and the recommendations of the committees.
When the PIL came-up for hearing, DB observed that the District Mineral Officer, Geology and Mining Department has filed an application whereby the applicant has sought vacation/modification of order dated 17.11.2016 passed by this court in the PIL. Vide this order it was, inter alia, provided that extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi be immediately stopped till further orders.
In the application it has been contended that the blanket ban on extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi is causing great hardships to the public at large, inasmuch as, it has led to sky rocketing of costs of minor minerals and its illegal extraction. It has been further submitted that the Government exchequer is being put to huge losses on account of ban on extraction of minor minerals and the continuous deposition of minor minerals in the River Tawi has become a potential threat of submerging of banks of the river in the event of a flood.
After hearing counsel for the parties and the Advocate General appearing for the applicants and also going through the record of the case, the DB observed, “due to ban on mining in river Tawi basin downstream of 4th Tawi bridge, by virtue of High Court’s order dated 17.11.2016, the consistent shortage of minor minerals has led to sprouting of a parallel industry of illegal operators who exploited the demand supply matrix and started free lancing mostly exploiting shoals formed in the Tawi basin for sand and at times for aggregates known ‘bajri’ in local parlance”.
The DB further observed, “as a result of the earlier directions, extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi stands banned. This, according to the applicants, has led to illegal mining activities/operation of stone crusher units in River Tawi. It appears that the Government constituted a committee vide its order No.15-MNG of 2021 dated 04.05.2021 to examine this aspect”.
The DB said that another committee was constituted by the Government under the chairmanship of Director, Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing to examine the issue and to suggest measures for removal of shoals so as to avoid the damage to the embankment and habitation of the banks of River Tawi around the Jammu City.
The DB after quotting recommendations of various committees, observed, “it becomes clear that the blanket ban on extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi has led to deposition of large quantity of minor minerals in the river bed, which has the potential of causing damage to its embankments as also to the property and persons located around River Tawi”, adding “it also appears that because of the blanket ban, illegal extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi has assumed alarming proportions and it has also sky rocketed the costs of minor minerals. The reports of the committees further indicate that because of non-extraction of minor minerals the Government is suffering huge losses in the shape of revenue that could have been earned by putting the minor minerals to e-auction”.
“It appears that order dated 17.11.2016 was passed by this court in order to check the illegal extraction of minor minerals. Having regard to the reports of the committees, it appears that the order has not served the desired purpose, inasmuch as, the illegal extraction of minor minerals, has led to sprouting of a parallel industry”, the DB said, adding “moreover, the transitory provision of Rule 104-A is no longer in operation as the same stands omitted vide SO.169 dated 19.05.2020 and as per the existing Rules extraction of minor minerals without approval of Mining Plan and without environmental and other clearances, as provided under the Rules of 2016, is not permissible”.
“We are of the opinion that order dated 17.11.2016 is required to be modified to the extent it provides for blanket ban on extraction of minor minerals from River Tawi”, the DB said and directed that the relevant authorities of the Government are at liberty to get the minor minerals extracted from River Tawi subject to strict adherence to the Rules of 2016 and the recommendations of the committees.