The Punjab and Haryana high court has granted two months' time to the Punjab government to verify the authenticity of around three lakh weighment slips submitted by the Pathankot stone crushers as evidence of bringing raw materials from Jammu and Kashmir.
However, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had found 51 stone crushers in Pathankot district violating its guidelines and action was being initiated against them, Pathankot deputy commissioner C Sibin informed the Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday.
Sibin was present in the court along with Pathankot senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rakesh Kaushal during the resumed hearing of the case in which the high court had taken suo motu notice of the Hindustan Times news reports published in October highlighting illegal mining in the riverbeds and along the riverbanks in Pathankot district.
The deputy commissioner submitted that four inspection teams had been constituted comprising officials of revenue, police, PPCB and excise and taxation departments to investigate about registration of stone-crushers, illegal mining, evasion of sales tax, and the goonda tax as reported by HT.
He informed the court that around three lakh weighment slips had been submitted by crusher owners of Pathankot claiming that the raw material used by them was brought from Jammu and Kashmir. However, the authenticity of these was to be verified from the department of geology and mining of Jammu and Kashmir, said Sibin.
The court was informed that a total of 132 FIRs had been registered against crusher owners who were found to be storing raw material without proper permission and documents. Sibin also submitted that as per the report submitted by the inspection teams, there was a need to demarcate the state boundary and being inter-state matter both the Jammu and Kashmir as well as Himachal governments needed to be involved during demarcation.
Appearing for the stone crusher owners, advocate Gurminder Singh said, "As many as 132 FIRs have been registered against crusher owners without verifying the facts. Whereas the state cannot take action against crusher owners as per the Punjab Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1964, as they are processing the already-mined minerals."
He added, "You can close my crusher unit but you can't proceed against me for penal action when the state doesn't have the power under the statute." On this, the division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Augustine George Masih directed him to file his written submissions on the next date of hearing on January 20