September 7, 2018

Himachal High Court in action over illegal mining

 Vijyender Sharma
SHIMLA----  The High Court of Himachal Pradesh has  directed the Chief Secretary to the Government of H.P., to personally hold an inquiry against all those officials/officers on whose part the identification/auction etc. of the mineral bearing sites is being unnecessarily delayed and to find out as to why it is taking so long  for putting the sites to auction.  The Court further directed to assure that the said inquiry would be conducted by the Chief Secretary to the Government of H.P., in a free, fair and impartial manner and no official/officer shall unnecessarily be shielded or protected.
Division Bench comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Chander Bhusan Barowalia passed these orders on a petition taken up suo moto by the Court as Public Interest Litigation on a petition filed by  the residents of Up-Mahals Dhandri and Shiv Nagar and Village Takarla, Tehsil Amb, District Una. The petitioners  have alleged about the decreasing water level in the Gharni Khad in Una  due to excessive mining which has affected the livelihood and the ecosystem of the area.
During hearing of the petition, it was observed by the Court that the respondent State took no steps to ensure for the timely completion for the auction proceedings and in auction of some of the sites, no bidders participated. The Court exhorted that when illegal mining goes unabted and unchecked, obviously, no person would be interested in bidding and making himself accountable and until, the respondents concerned themselves check illegal mining, no bidder would come forward.
On the aforesaid indifferent attitude of the official respondents, the Court expressed its view that the respondents have forgotten that the public welfare is the highest law and that the offices entrusted to them are sacred trusts and are meant for use and not abuse.
During its earlier hearing, it had come to the notice of the Court  that despite being 44,400 hectares of mineral bearing area  available with the State, only minuscule area of 2350 hectares which barely accounts for 5% has been granted/proposed for mineral concession. The Court had directed the Chief Secretary, to the Government of H.P., to file affidavit in this behalf.
The Court now posted the matter for 28.09.2018, for submission of the inquiry report.

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