The Madras High Court on Monday, February 12, 2024 decided to commence from March 11 the final hearing on a huge of batch of cases related to alleged illicit beach sand mining in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts and the blanket mining ban in the State since 2013.
Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy took the decision after hearing Senior Counsel Arvind P. Datar for the State government, V. Raghavachari for miner S. Vaikundarajan, amicus curiae V. Suresh and Srinath Sridevan for V.V. Minerals.
Beach sand mining row in Tamil Nadu
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It was brought to the notice of the Bench that cases had been filed challenging the Government Orders issued in 2013 imposing a ban on beach sand mining apart from a public interest litigation which was initially filed by an individual but subsequently converted into a suo motu PIL.
The PIL was related to alleged illicit mining in the three districts. Further, the Bench was informed that after the ban, the government had appointed senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Gangandeep Singh Bedi to assess the extent of illicit mining that had taken place since then.
A single judge of the High Court had set aside the report of Mr. Bedi in view of certain procedural irregularities and the State government had preferred a writ appeal against that order. Therefore, the State appeal must be heard first before taking up the suo motu PIL, Mr. Sridevan insisted.
However, Mr. Suresh told the court that he had so far filed three extensive reports before the court on the basis of independent studies carried out by him, for over two years, on the basis of government data and that those reports had been accepted by the Centre as well as the State government as well.
Mr. Raghavachari discounted the reports of the amicus curiae too and said, they had been filed solely on the basis of Mr. Bedi’s report which had been set aside by the single judge. He also stated the government had now issued show cause notices to the miners on the basis of the reports of the amicus.
When Mr. Sridevan insisted on staying all further proceedings pursuant to the issuance of the show cause notices, Additional Government Pleader B. Vijay told the court that most of the miners had submitted their reply to the notices and some had sought time to file their replies. None had challenged those notices, he said.
However, Mr. Raghavachari contended that only interim replies had been submitted by the miners to the notices asking them to show cause as to why their mining leases should not be cancelled. After hearing their preliminary arguments, the judges decided to hear all issues comprehensively from March 11.