Mining lease extension: SC seeks Centre's response

Last Updated 16 April 2019, 17:29 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre, the Karnataka government and others on a plea for quashing of allotment, extension or continuation of leases to firms for mining iron ore from over 358 mines across the country without any fresh evaluation.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer sought a response from Centre on the petition filed by advocate M L Sharma who also sought a CBI probe, contending the extensions were being granted in lieu of huge donations to the BJP.

The court appointed senior advocate P S Narasimha as amicus curiae to assist it in the case.

Sharma, in his petition, has alleged that in February this year it has come to his knowledge that 288 mining leases were extended in exchange of "large donations" which has created a "serious financial loss" to the tune of Rs 4 lakh crore to the public exchequer.

Under the garb of the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, which was passed by Parliament and received the President's assent, there was a move to extend the lease of 288 mineral blocks of iron ore till 2020.

Goa has the most number of such mines at 160, that are headed for expiry. In Karnataka and Odisha, such mining leases are 45 and 31 respectively. Most of these mines are under control of the Vedanta group and Tata Group of the companies, the major donor to the BJP. The petitioner cited media reports to claim donations to the BJP reached to Rs 437.35 crore in 2014-15.

The petitioner has claimed that leases have been either granted or extended to the firms for mining iron ores in over 358 mines without either any fresh evaluation or adopting the auction process.

He also sought directions for recovery of the market value of the mined minerals in accordance with the law.

"Within the principle upheld by the Supreme Court in its previous judgement (Coal Block allocation), no natural assets can be allotted/extended free of cost. Impugned extension is contra to the law of the country. Nowhere in the Act, it says to extend the lease free of cost. At least value of extension must be decided as per the maximum rate of auction value by the state or by another state government during this period," the plea has said.

He also sought quashing of Section 8A of the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, which stated all mining lease should be granted for a period of fifty years and on expiry of lease period.

(Published 16 April 2019, 17:09 IST)

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