The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday set a six-week deadline for the special investigation team (SIT) probing illegal mining in Punjab to submit its final report with "emphasis on the nexus" in the entire gambit of illegal mining.
"Highly disappointed" with the SIT report submitted in the court prior to the hearing on Wednesday, the court's division bench, comprising Justice Rajive Bhalla and Justice BB Parsoon, ordered the SIT headed by IG Nirmal Singh Dhillon to submit its final report within six weeks, or the matter would be handed over to the CBI.
The SIT, in its report submitted on Wednesday, had mentioned merely the arrests made in such cases of illegal mining, the court observed, highlighting that the emphasis should have been on the nexus.
The IG, along with Rupnagar SSP Inder Mohan Singh and senior mining officer Vishav Bandhu, appeared in the court for the hearing of the public interest litigation on illegal mining.
The SIT was formed on the court orders dated May 27, 2013, which stated that the SIT was required "to unearth and identify persons behind illegal excavation of minor minerals, as without significant financial, administrative and political support, illegal mining is near impossible".
The bench also took cognisance of the media reports on illegal mining, asking the SIT to have a look "at the series of news stories appearing in a Hindi newspaper".
The PIL filed in November 2012 had sought the court's directions to the state that all mining sites/areas which had been cleared from environmental impact be put to auction in a transparent and time-bound manner so that an effective end was put to illegal mining "worth Rs 10,000 crore per annum" in Punjab.
The deputy commissioners of SAS Nagar, Rupnagar and Pathankot had already acknowledged illegal mining prevailing in the state as they had cited a number of FIRs registered in their respective districts.
On Wednesday, the SIT had submitted its report citing some 2,500 FIRs registered since April 1, 2012 related to illegal mining in the state.
Policy on stone-crushers
Another division bench of the high court, comprising Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice G S Sandhawalia, asked Punjab to lay down a concrete policy on the running of stone crushers across the state, and also to submit a status report in the court related to the crushers being installed at present, besides those already set up.
The state has also been asked to submit whether all stone crushers were running as per the environment conditions. The Punjab government had submitted in the court that no stone crushers would be allowed to function within the 50-metre range of a riverbank.