Uttarakhand responds to PIL against mining riverbed material on private lands
In August last year the Uttarakhand High Court had stayed the state government' notification of allowing mining of riverbed material (RBM) on private lands adjacent to the rivers in the state.
The Uttarakhand government on Wednesday submitted its affidavit to the high court outlining why it had allowed mining of riverbed material (RBM) on private lands adjacent to the rivers in the state. RBM includes sand, gravel and stones.
Riverbed material includes sand, gravel and stones.
In its affidavit the government said that since the rivers, especially when flooded, bring riverbed material with them on these private lands, it had decided to grant lease/pattas to private persons for extraction of riverbed material from the banks of rivers in the state.
SRS Gill, counsel for the petitioner sought time from the high court to file a rejoinder.
“We have sought two weeks’ time for filing a rejoinder (response) on the state government’s affidavit. The court has granted us time and the next hearing of the matter has been fixed on March 17”, he said.
A division bench of chief justice RS Chauhan and justice Alok Verma heard the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by US Nagar-based social activist Ramesh Lal, who had had alleged last year that allowing mining on private lands adjacent to riverbeds will give rise to illegal mining, cutting and erosion of the banks, flooding and affect the overall ecology of the rivers in the Himalayan state
In August last year, the HC had stayed till further order the state government’s May 5, 2020 notification which allowed mining of RBM on private lands adjacent to the riverbeds in the state.
The petition had sought quashing of May 5 notification with a specific reference to Clause 1(ka) of Rule 23 of Uttarakhand Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2001 and urged the high court to direct authorities concerned not to grant any lease/pattas to private persons for extraction of riverbed material from the banks of rivers in the state.
Gill said under its May 5, 2020 notification, the state government had made an amendment in rule 23 (1) of Uttarakhand Minor Mineral Concession Rules-2001, allowing allotment of mining leases on private land adjacent to riverbeds in the state.
The HC in its interim order had stated that according to the counter affidavit filed by the state government, “no permission has been granted to any landowner to carry out mining activity in the riverbeds....on being questioned, the additional chief standing counsel ..submits that extraction from riverbanks is being permitted by the State government on private lands”.
Questioning this, the HC in its order had said, “We asked a very specific question as to whether riverbanks form part of a private property. We find no convincing answer to the same. Prima facie, we are of the view that riverbeds and riverbanks are necessarily the property of the State Government. It cannot form part of a private property”.
The HC had maintained that “permission for extraction, subject to provisions of law, may be granted in a private land, but there can never ever be extraction on riverbeds and riverbanks. However, the additional chief standing counsel for the State submits to the contrary. He states that permission is being granted by the State for extraction on riverbanks on private property”.