The Supreme Court has fixed a 28-month deadline for the Centre and states to decide on applications seeking environmental clearance for renewal of mining leases, an order that would end bureaucratic red-tapism often faced by companies that want continuation of their leases.
A special forest bench headed by Justice JS Kehar also fixed responsibility of officers dealing with the applications at various stages and ordered that non-compliance of the court’s directions would make them liable to face contempt charges.
The bench set a three-week deadline for the Centre and all the states to set-up websites, which shall reflect the status of every application.
A unique code or serial number shall be assigned to the proposal at the time of its submission. The websites would work on a real-time basis, the bench said, adding there should be no restriction to accessing the portals.
The order came on a petition filed by the Federation of Indian Minerals Industry (FIMI), which complained that statutory clearances were pending with either the Centre or states for three-four years and companies were suffering in the process.
FIMI had requested the court to direct authorities to speed up the process and take decisions in a time-bound manner.
The court’s directions are based on suggestions made by the SC-appointed Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC), the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and advocate ADN Rao, who is assisting the green bench dealing with environment related cases.
“A 28-month deadline has been set for both the Centre and states to either approve or disapprove a request for renewal of leases. Within this period, the relevant authorities have to complete all the tasks such as getting a clarification, if any, from the company, carrying out surveys and ensuring the applicant has abided by its assurance to undertake mandatory compensatory afforestation,” Rao told HT.
“A specific cut-off date is there for every officer and a supervising officer would be there responsible for the compliance of the court order,“ Rao added.
Time has been fixed even for the company to respond to any query. Submission of a proposal by the company should be atleast two years before expiry of its mining lease.
“In case of disobedience of the directions issued by us today, it shall be open to the aggrieved party, to raise a challenge to the same, in the high court,” the bench said.