The process being followed by the Punjab government for the e-auction of 115 minor mineral (sand or gravel) quarries in 19 of the state's 22 districts, to be held from July 1 to 3, has come under the scanner of the Punjab and Haryana high court as the highest bidder would now have to himself seek environment clearance for mining.
Taking up a petition accusing the state government of holding the e-auction in violation of earlier Supreme Court and high court orders, the HC issued a notice to the state government on Wednesday regarding stay of the process.
The vacation bench comprising justices AK Mittal and RP Nagrath directed the state to reply by July 1 on issues raised in the petition filed by Chandigarh resident Barinder Singh Dhillon.
Dhillon has sought quashing of the auction notice issued on June 14, notifying the e-auction of 115 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 petitioner himself holds a contract of mining sand at Gug Daghra village in Jalandhar from March 1, 2013, to February 26, 2015. He informed the court that the state authorities were seeking to auction an area of 10 acres for mining in the village where the petitioner holds the mining contract over 59.94 acres.
Eco clearance to be sought by highest bidder
Condition No 21 incorporated in the notice dated June 14 shows that obtaining prior environmental clearance by the state government, as directed by the high court, vide order dated November 6, 2009, and September 5, 2011, on a petition "Partap Singh Sandhu vs Union of India" and confirmed by the Supreme Court vide order dated January 10, 2011, had completely been ignored. The court was informed that the highest bidder had to himself obtain approval of the environment management plan from the district-level committee.
The petitioner also informed that the procedure laid down in the union ministry of environment and forests' (MoEF's) notification dated September 14, 2006, for obtaining environment clearance was long-drawn-out and cumbersome and a minimum of 270 days were required for the same. He also alleged that the state government, while framing the Punjab Minor Mineral Rules, 2013, did not care to comply with the Supreme Court's directions in the "Deepak Kumar's case" to incorporate various recommendations of the MoEF and the ministry of mines relating to minimum area to be granted on mining lease and also the duration of the period of mining leases.
Haryana stayed mining on identical issues
The court was informed that on identical issues with the Haryana government of passing the onus to get the environment clearance to the highest bidder, a petition was filed in the high court last year. Noticing the matter reaching the high court, the Haryana government had on September 12, 2012, itself stayed the auction of minor minerals.