Punjab’s advocate general, Ashok Aggarwal, on Tuesday acknowledged the involvement of policemen, bureaucrats and politicians in illegal mining worth crores in the state, and even said in the Punjab and Haryana high court that “society doesn’t treat illegal extraction of minor minerals as sinful, since need of sand is there”.
“It is a fact that for a le gal slip of 1,000 feet sand tipper, 10 tippers pass illegally. There is no doubt that there are men in uniform, government officers, political persons and financers of these tippers involved. But registration of FIRs have to start from land owners and then to the next step,” said Aggarwal.
The AG’s submission came while representing the state during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Chandigarh resident Gurbir Singh Pannu about rampant mining across Punjab reportedly causing a loss of 10,000 crore a year to the public exchequer. The HC had in May last year ordered constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter.
On Tuesday, the court headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul opined for drastic increase in fine and ordered the AG as well as the petitioner’s counsel to sit together and work out a procedure within two months, including fixing of minor mineral price to ensure le g al mining in view of the larger public interest. The court also directed the SIT, which is headed by inspector general of police (IGP) Nirmal Singh Dhillon and has not completed the probe, to continue its work. Dhillon was present in the court but without any status report.
Speaking for the court, the chief justice expressed, “A lot many FIRs have been registered and even then nothing has been done. Why is the court required to constitute SIT?”
The petitioner’s counsel , RS Bains, argued vehemently: “Whenever they (state) frame guidelines for auctioning of minor minerals, they intentionally leave some lacunae. Ultimately, mining process is challenged in the cour t and stayed. This is how illegal mining goes on unabated.”
But when the cour t asked Bains for his suggestions to simplify the procedures and ensuring legal mining, the AG suggested, “I’ll engage him (Bains) as state counsel in this case. Let him give suggestions and let him file replies in the court, or we both can sit together and come out with a solution.”
Bains further argued, “Nobody asked the state government to register thousands of FIRs. It is not possible without connivance of ministers and high-ups. All illegal mining is being carried out from public land and riverbeds.”
“For the last one year, the SIT has done nothing except seeking time from the court; and hundreds of illegal tippers are moving at night. This is a big scandal.” he added.