Faced with allegations of illegal mining in at least seven states, the government has proposed an independent regulatory authority with powers to investigate and prosecute those indulging in such activities.
The proposed National Mining Regulatory Authority (NMRA) will replace the Indian Bureau of Mines, the current regulatory body, which according to the law ministry has not been effective.
The NMRA is set to be given sweeping powers, including rejection of orders passed by the Centre and state governments.
According to the draft prepared by the Group of Ministers (GoM) looking into the matter, the authority will have the powers of a civil court and its officials will have responsibilities similar to state police.
The authority has been empowered to impose a fine of Rs five lakh on those to be convicted by it. “In case of a second or subsequent offence the fine may extend to Rs 10 lakh and in cases of continuing contravention, it may extend to Rs five lakh for each day the default continues,” says the draft law.
“Officers of the NMRA, in carrying out the functions of investigations and prosecution shall have all the powers, duties, privileges and liabilities which the police of that state have in connection with investigation of offences,” states section 65 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2010. The authority will have to dispose off the case filed before it within six months and no appeal shall be allowed against its order, if both parties give consent to the verdict.
The 15-member body to be headed by a chairperson, will have seven expert members and seven judicial members, none of them below 55 years of age.