The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu made the observation while extending the interim stay on the mining of savudu (colloquial term for ordinary sand).
Pointing out that it is also imperative that this matter may not be seen in isolation, the bench said: “There are other petitions pending in which allegations abound of illegal mining all over the State. Indeed, a drive down any major highway in this State would reveal the large-scale mining operations.”
“It is necessary that the authorities, particularly those deputed with the task of conducting an inquiry pursuant to this order, keep their eyes and ears open to take immediate, appropriate steps under law to arrest illegal mining wherever or whenever it takes place anywhere in the State,” the bench stressed.
Also, directing the State to use the machinery at its command to come down heavily on illegal miners, the bench further held: “Any person who has indulged in illegal mining, where one operates without a licence or in excess of the terms granted by the licence, the person has to be made to pay. The State must assess the extent of illegal quarrying indulged in by a person and recover the money equivalent thereof together with the imposition of penalty. Unless a sense of fear is instilled in persons indulging in wanton illegal mining across the State, this malady may never be arrested.”
However, regards the mining of savudu, the bench on recording Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram’s submission that given the disparity between the two reports filed in court, directed the Principal Secretary of the State-level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority to accompany the Junior Engineer and Assistant Director in charge of the Geology and Mining department to inspect the particular spot and ascertain the exact extent of the mining operations being carried out and as to whether the same is in accordance with the permission or licence obtained by the entity carrying out mining activities.
“Let such exercise be carried out immediately and a status report filed by the Principal Secretary along with the Assistant Director in the Geology and Mining Department when the matter appears next, a fortnight hence,” the bench added.