Take it forward

Take it forward

An important aspect of  the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case relating to mining rights for the South Korean steel major Posco in the Khandahar hills in Odisha is that it has shifted the responsibility for a decision to the government. The court has asked the Central government to consider all objections and claims raised by different  parties and take an appropriate decision.

 The Posco steel plant proposal, which is the highest ever foreign direct investment (FDI) project in the country, has been embroiled in various controversies. They cover a range of  legal, environmental and livelihood issues. The proposal is many years old and whenever there was a sign of movement it has stalled on fresh and recurrent objections. The latest Supreme Court judgment has cleared one aspect of the legal problems that have attended the proposal.

The Odisha government had issued a notification granting iron ore mining rights to Posco in the Khandahar hills for its use in the proposed steel plant. A company which had also sought a mining licence challenged the government’s decision in the high court, and the court had annulled the notification. The Supreme Court order has now come on the state’s appeal. The apex court has set aside the high court’s order and opined that the issue be settled by the Centre in consultation with all concerned parties, including the state. The appeal has taken three years for a decision. It is in public interest that such controversies are not prolonged for long periods. It is not only matters relating to mining rights that have been caught up in legal rigmarole.  Important issues concerning the environmental impact of the project and the rehabilitation of those who may have to give up their land and livelihood have also lingered on without satisfactory solutions.

The best way to deal with these issues is consultation among the parties which have a stake in them under the auspices of the government. The Central and state governments and representatives of the company and other interested parties should reach an agreement on matters of disputes of all kinds that have bedevilled the project. The Supreme Court has made this clear while deciding issues involved in disputes related to some other industrial ventures also. Legal disputes form only a small aspect of such controversies. If the major differences are settled through consultations there will be less temptation to create legal obstacles through resort to courts.

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