The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock that 31 hills had "vanished" in the Aravalli area of Rajasthan and asked the state government to stop illegal mining in the 115.34-hectare area within 48 hours.
The top court said though Rajasthan was earning a royalty of around Rs 5,000 crore from mining activities in Aravalli, it cannot endanger lakhs of people in Delhi as the disappearance of the hills could be one of the reasons for rise in pollution level in the national capital region (NCR).
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the status report filed by Rajasthan government and said it indicated that illegal mining activity was going on in 115.34 hectare area in Aravalli range.
It also referred to a report of the central empowered committee (CEC), which said that out of 128 samples taken by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), as many as 31 hills or hillocks have vanished.
"31 hills or hillocks have disappeared. If hills disappear in the country, what will happen? Have people become 'Hanuman' that they are running away with hills?" Justice Lokur asked the counsel appearing for Rajasthan.
"15-20 % hills have vanished in the state of Rajasthan. This is your ground truth. Whom do you want to take for a ride?" the bench asked, adding that the state has failed to protect the Aravalli range from illegal mining.
The top court said that it was compelled to pass an order to stop illegal mining activities in 115.34-hectare area there within 48 hours as it appeared that the state has taken the issue "very lightly".
It sought compliance report within this week and posted the matter for hearing on October 29.