The Supreme Court Monday declined urgent hearing of a PIL seeking 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 headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told advocate M L Sharma, who filed the PIL, that the plea would come up for hearing in due course and urgent hearing was not needed.
Sharma said in the plea that mining leases have been either granted or extended to the firms for mining iron ores in over 358 mines without any fresh evaluation and adopting the auction process. The plea has sought a direction to the CBI to register an FIR to investigate and to file their report before this apex court.
It also sought directions for recovery of the market value of the mined minerals from the mines in accordance with the law. Besides, it has sought a court-monitored probe into the extension of lease and allotment of the mineral mines for free of cost which had caused huge financial loss to the public via a concocted conspiracy.
"Within the principle upheld by the Supreme Court in its previous judgement, 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 these period," it said. The petitioner claimed that in February 2019 it came to his knowledge that 288 leases for mining were extended in exchange of large donations which has created a "serious financial loss" to the tune of Rs 4 lakh crores to public exchequer.
The loss caused to the exchequer is liable to be recovered from the mining firms and their leases are liable to be quashed and the mines be put to fresh auction, the plea said. The plea has also sought quashing of section 8A of the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
Section 8-A of the Act provides that all mining lease should be granted for a period of fifty years and on expiry of lease period, it should be put up for auction as per the procedure specified in the Act. The plea has made ministries of Law, Mines and Minerals as also Odisha and Karnataka as parties.
The CBI has also been made a party.
(With inputs from agencies.)