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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
CHANDIGARH, September 20, 2013
Unconvinced by the explanation given by Punjab's principal secretary, industries and commerce, Karan Avtar Singh, the Punjab and Haryana high court has asked the state's advocate general to explain why its directions issued on August 17 last year for seeking prior environmental clearance for carrying out minor mineral mining were not followed.

The division bench comprising justices Jasbir Singh and GS Sandhawalia has now asked the state government as to why proceedings for contempt of court be not initiated against it for taking court directions lightly.

During the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, Karan Avtar Singh was present in the court and sought an unqualified apology stating that the delay in implementation of the court orders was a "bona fide mistake" committed by the department "inadvertently and unintentionally".

The high court had put a stay on mining activities in the state on August 17, 2012, with directions to the state government to take prior environmental clearance for mining from the union ministry of environment and forests. However, the state failed to do so and finally framed rules on March 8, 2013, that no environment clearance was required from the Centre for mining quarries less than 5 hectares.

The directions came during resumed hearing of a petition filed by Chandigarh resident Barinder Singh Dhillon challenging the e-auction of 115 minor mineral (sand or gravel) quarries in 19 districts of Punjab from July 1 to 3.

The e-auction was to be done for minor mineral quarries in the districts of Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Mansa, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Rupnagar, Hoshiarpur, Fazilka, SAS Nagar, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Pathankot and Kapurthala.

The case would now come up for hearing on October 3.