SC stays Reddys' mining

Inquiry panel appointed

SC stays Reddys' mining

The apex court move is a setback for the Reddy brothers.

In an interim order, a Bench of Chief Justice of India K  G Balakrishnan and Deepak Verma said: “There is allegation that the mining companies have extended mining in the forest areas. The mining operation is stayed.’’

To ascertain whether the Reddys have indeed encroached upon land in Anantpur, the Bench appointed a high-level team headed by Survey of India (SoI) officials to probe and verify whether the OMC has violated environment and forest laws.

The other officials on the team will be from the Andhra Pradesh government’s departments of revenue, mining and forests.

The team will demarcate the areas of each of the mining companies in accordance with the lease granted to them in Anantpur. Representatives of the Reddy brothers will be permitted to present their case before the panel.

The Supreme Court stay order on OMC’s mining operations comes as a fresh blow to the Reddys who hold important portfolios in the B S Yeddyurappa government. They already have a CBI case pending against them.

Interim report

While fixing April 9 as the next date of hearing, the apex court directed the officials to file their interim report within two weeks before the Bench. Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General Ghulam E Vahanvati said: “The company (OMC) has encroached reserve forest land. It has changed the boundaries”.

The Bench also sought response from the Reddy brothers — Karnataka Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy and Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy –– on the Special Leave Petition filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the February 26 state High Court order quashing the lease cancellation orders passed by the state government.

In its report of November 19, 2009, the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had said that illegal mining activities were going on in the reserve forest areas, said Vahanvati.

While pleading that mining operations be allowed to continue, OMC counsel Mukul Rohtagi said that the company would extend all support to the survey team when it carries out the demarcation procedure.

Senior advocate and amicus curie Harish Salve opposed Rohtagi’s argument that the CEC report was not valid as the apex court had not directed it to submit a report.
The Empowered Committee, with the help of other authorities, had surveyed the region and found that a large chunk of forest area had been encroached upon.

Appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government senior advocate K K Venugopal said since November 26, 2009, OMC had transported 2,50,000 tonnes of iron ore, worth crores of rupees, to Karnataka.

The Reddys’ mine is barely 40 metres from the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka border and by building a private road, the company was carrying the ore to the neighbouring state, Venugopal alleged. The Andhra government had challenged the Andhra Pradesh High Court order before the apex court.

On the basis of the CEC report, the Andhra government directed OMC to stop the mining operations. But on a petition filed by the company, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had quashed the government order banning mining. 

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