A special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday ordered that only the proponent of a mining project, not the state government, could take requisite permission from the union ministry of environment and forests. With this order, the extraction and mining of minor minerals, including construction material such as sand and gravel, would resume in Haryana.
A three-judge bench headed by justice AK Patnaik delivered the ruling on the Centre's plea challenging the Punjab and Haryana high court order. The latter had directed the Haryana government to take environment clearance from the Centre before issuing licence or lease for mining in the state. This had halted several mining projects in the region, leading to a shortfall of construction material being supplied to the National Capital Region (NCR).
In its appeal, argued by additional solicitor general Mohan Jain, the union government said the state, being the custodian of minerals, should not be allowed to play the role of project proponent of minor minerals.
Appearing for the ministry, Jain said project promoters were seeking environment clearance across the country. There was an exception in the case of Haryana on account of the HC order. He brought a Centre's notification to the court's notice, which stated that an application seeking prior environmental clearance in all cases shall be submitted by the project proponent.
Business activities allowed on forest land
The bench also permitted traders to carry on their business activities, including erecting tents and pandals for marriage functions and parties, on forest land in Haryana.
The bench gave interim relief to traders, who had approached the SC against an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). In its order, the tribunal had said: "It is clear that indisputably non-forest activities are going on in the forest area. Not only non-forest activities but also commercial, industrial and even liquor shops are existing therein which are injurious to the conservation of forests."
The green panel had also asked the Haryana Pollution Control Board and the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to ensure compliance of its order.