The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register a First Information Report (FIR) against those who were involved in illegal extraction and transportation of iron ore to the tune of 50.79 lakh metric tonnes from Belekeri port in Karnataka.
A three-judge bench led by Justice Aftab Alam castigated state government by wondering that it was not possible to extract and export such a huge quantity of iron ore without the knowledge of the state machinery.
The direction to hand over the probe to the CBI to carry out “thorough and comprehensive” investigation came on the recommendations of the apex court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) given in the report submitted on April 27 and September 5.
“We accept the report of the CEC. The CBI is directed to register the FIR and investigate the case relating to illegal extraction of 50.79 lakh metric tonne of iron ore from the forest area of Karnataka between January 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010,” the bench, also comprising Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said.
The court also noted that of this quantity about eight lakh metric tonne was lying under the seizure of the authorities, which was allowed to be exported to foreign companies from the Belekeri port allegedly by four Port Service Providers (stevedores) Adani Enterprises Ltd, Shree Mallikarjun Shipping Pvt Ltd, Salgaoncar Mining Industries Pvt Ltd and Rajmahal Silks.
During the hearing, the court told Additional Solicitor General H P Raval, appearing for the CBI to register the FIR, institute the case and take custodial interrogation of the accused.
Report in 6 months
“Let us go beyond investigation. We want result,” the bench said, seeking report within six months.
Senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Karnataka government, submitted that the CEC’s observation that the probe undertaken by the CB-CID into illegal export from Belekeri port did not inspire confidence was not correct.
But his contention was not accepted by the bench which observed, “Can anyone imagine that the state machinery from lower to top was not aware of it, or the state CID was not knowing what was happening when it happened?”
‘Fence eating grass’
“It is the case of fence eating the grass,” Justice Alam said. The court also reminded that five lakh truck trips were made for transportation of illegally extracted iron ore as pointed out by the CEC in its report of September 5.
The CEC had recommended CBI probe against exporters M/s ILC Industries Ltd, M/s Dream Logistics Company Ltd, M/s S B Logistics and M/s Shree Mallikarjuna Shipping Pvt Ltd.
The panel had further named seven companies, among them Swastik Steels Pvt Ltd, Swastik Cement and Minerals, SMSK Mineral Trading Company and Eagle Trading.
It had sought direction for preliminary investigation against certain companies which was also accepted by the court.