SC extends mining ban on OMC

Apex court issues notices to Ktaka, AP govts on Lokayukta report

The bench, comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice B S Chauhan, decided to continue with its December 17, 2009, order after the Andhra Pradesh government and OMC preferred that the matter be heard by the Supreme Court instead of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The bench had given the option to the contesting parties to argue the case before the high court, which would have been asked to pass an appropriate order at the earliest by going into the merits of the case.

However, the Andhra Pradesh Government and OMC, owned by BJP leader and Karnataka Minister G Janardhana Reddy and his brothers, preferred that the dispute should be settled by the apex court which posted the matter for hearing for January 14.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati, while appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government, assailed the high court order which allowed the mining activities despite the apex court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and government-appointed three-member committee pointing out irregularities in the mining operation, allegedly carried out by encroaching the forest area.

He said the committee had criticised Karnataka Tourism Minster G Janardhana Reddy and his brothers for the illegal mining in the Bellary reserve forest. The attorney general argued that the matter was of serious concern as there was “complete breakdown” of law and order and around 1,95,000 tonnes of minerals were being mined “illegally” from the encroached area.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the PIL petitioners, made submissions on similar lines and alleged that the Reddy brothers have taken the whole area as their fiefdom.

The OMC countered the allegations through senior advocate Rohatgi, who alleged that the private matter has been turned into a political battle. He said even the issue of survey, which has been raised, was not the order of the apex court.
Meanwhile, the apex court also issued notices to the Centre and Karnataka Government on a petition seeking action on a report of the Lokayukta pointing out irregularities and in the mining activities in the State and adjoining Andhra Pradesh.
Hearing the petition filed by Karnataka based NGO Samaja Parivarthan Samudaya, a special forest bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan also sought response from both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh within six weeks.

Referring to the Lokayukta report which said that most of the blocks for mining activities in the reserved forest area have been illegal deserved, the NGO sought a ban on illegal mining and transportation of iron ore from the mines in Bellary, Chickmaglur and Shimoga.
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