Govt does not own minerals under pvt land, says SC

Minerals and natural resources lying under a private land belong to the individual who owns the land, and the government cannot claim any proprietary right over it, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In an important judgment, a three-judge bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha said, “We are of the opinion that there is nothing in the law which declares that all mineral wealth and sub-soil rights are vested in the state.”

The state can at best levy tax on their extraction, added the court. “The ownership of sub-soil/mineral wealth should normally follow the ownership of the land, unless the owner of the land is deprived of the same by some valid process,” added the court.

The bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur, rejected the argument that individual owners cannot claim any proprietary right on the sub-soil resources as Section 425 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, prohibits carrying out of any mining activity in this country except in accordance with a permit, licence or mining lease.

“The said Act does not in any way purport to declare the proprietary rights of the state in the mineral wealth, nor does it contain any provision divesting any owner of a mine of his proprietary rights,” held the court.

The court referred to other enactments by Parliament  which talked about acquisition of such land but did not declare any proprietary right of the state on them.

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