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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 - illegal mining - No show cause notice - Stay granted over the sizer order - Petitioner gave an undertaking - Single judge - gave permission to operate the mine with some directions - State filed Appeal to D.B. - held that Subsequent events can be considered while passing orders - D.B. allowed the appeal with some directions - SLP - for permission to operate the mine - Apex court dismissed the petition confirmed the D.B. bench high court = M/s PRP Exports & Etc. …. Petitioners Verses The Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. …. Respondents = Published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41084

 The  Mines  &  Minerals (Development &  Regulation)  Act,  1957 - illegal mining - No show cause notice - Stay granted over the sizer order - Petitioner gave an undertaking - Single judge - gave permission to operate the mine with some directions - State filed Appeal  to D.B. - held that Subsequent events can be considered while passing orders - D.B. allowed the appeal with some directions - SLP -  for permission to operate the mine - Apex court dismissed the petition confirmed the D.B. bench high court = 
Whether the
Petitioners may be allowed to operate the quarries in  accordance  with  the
licences already granted. =
learned Single Judge observed as follows :-
      “124.`  It is also admitted case of the respondents, that  till  date,
      even show cause notice with regard to cancellation of licences granted
      in favour of the petitioner has not been issued, therefore,  there  is
      absolutely no justification with the respondents, to stop  the  mining
      operation  of  the  petitioner  over  the  mines  leased  out  to  the
      petitioner, and thereby taking the right of livelihood of thousands of
      employees working in the firm.”


4.    After hearing all the parties, the learned Single  Judge  disposed  of
the writ petitions on 2.11.2012.  
The  operative  portion  of  the  judgment
reads as follows :

      “130.  However, at the same time, the fact cannot be  lost  sight  off
      that there are number of cases registered against the partners of  the
      petitioner firm, and there are serious allegations of  illegal  mining
      worth of crores of rupees. 
Further more, in the  writ  petitions,  the
      positive stand of the writ petitioner is,  that  the  petitioners  are
      willing to co-operate with the  investigation  of  criminal  cases  in
      respect of furnishing all documents, records, books of accounts  which
      are sealed by the authorities  in  their  presence,  and  has  further
      undertaken not to tamper with any records, and will  not  destroy  any
      evidence whatsoever. 
The petitioner has also undertaken not to  threat
      any witnesses in the investigation. 
Therefore, a blanket order  to  be
      passed in favour of the petitioner may hamper the investigation, which
      cannot be permissible in law.


      131. Therefore, in order to settle equity, these  writ  petitions  are
      disposed of with the following directions:-


           1.    The respondents shall permit the  petitioner  to  continue
           the quarry operations over the leased property strictly in terms
           of the lease,  which  is  admittedly  in  force.  It  shall  be,
           however, open to the respondents to take appropriate  action  by
           following  due  process  of  law  under  The  Mines  &  Minerals
           (Development &  Regulation)  Act,  1957  and  the  Rules  framed
           thereunder, if so advised ;


           2.    The respondents shall henceforth release the bank accounts
           and to  allow  the  petitioner  to  carry  on  his  business  in
           accordance with law. However,  it  shall  be  the  duty  of  the
           petitioners to submit fortnightly Statement of Accounts  to  the
           Investigating Officer;


           3.    That the order restraining the export and  import  by  the
           Investigating Officer  is  ordered  to  be  quashed  and  it  is
           directed that the respondents shall not interfere in the  export
           and import on valid documents by the petitioner.


           4.    That the seal of the administrative  building  be  opened,
           after the Investigating  Officer  takes  in  possession  of  the
           documents,  the  computers,  hard  discs,  etc.,  required   for
           investigation. (As agreed between the parties, the petitioner is
           directed to depute two persons  along  with  an  expert,  if  so
           advised  to  be  present  at  the  administrative  building   on
           07.11.2012 (Wednesday) at  10.00  a.m.,  for  handing  over  the
           computers,  hard  discs,  documents,  available  in  the  sealed
           building, after transferring the datas from computers and making
           copies of the documents,  which  are  required  for  running  of
           business). It is made
           clear that the petitioner will be entitled to get copies of  the
           documents lying within the premises and permit the Investigating
           Officer to  take  away  the  Computers,  Hard  discs  and  other
           documents,  which  are  required  for  the  Investigation.  This
           process shall be completed  in  three  days  and  it  should  be
           completed on or before 09.11.2012 (Friday).


           5.    The Investigating Officer shall permit the  petitioner  to
           carry on their business.


           6.     With  regard  to  the  vehicles,  equipments  and   other
           accessories seized by the authorities under the  Motor  Vehicles
           Act, or in criminal cases, it shall be open to the petitioner to
           take appropriate remedy  in  accordance  with  law  for  reasons
           thereof.

      No costs.”

The Division Bench of the Madras High Court formulated  two  questions
which read as follows :
      “(1)  Whether the appellants can  place  reliance  on  the  subsequent
      events, viz., passing of the suspension orders  dated  14.12.2012  and
      the issuance of  the  show  cause  notice  dated  Nil.12.2012  to  the
      respondents/writ petitioners firm? and

      (2)   Whether the provisions under the Special Law viz. The Mines  and
      Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and other  Rules,  can
      override the General Law, viz., the penal provisions under the  Indian
      Penal Code and the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure  in
      respect of the initiation of parallel proceedings, viz.,  departmental
      proceedings and criminal proceedings?”


12.   We find it difficult to accede to that  request  made  by  the  senior
counsel, at this stage,  
especially  in  the  wake  of  the  report  of  the
District Collector dated 19.5.2012 as well  as  the  report  of  the  Deputy
Director of Geology and Mining dated 23.11.2012.  In the affidavit filed  by
the third respondent,  it  is  pointed  out,  that  the  volume  of  illegal
transportation from the  petitioners’  16  quarries  is  around  1207863.164
Cubic Meters and show cause notices have been issued to the Petitioner  firm
under Section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development  and  Regulation)
Act, 1957 for recovery of the cost.  
It is stated  that  the  value  of  the
illicit quarry in  the  16  quarries  alone  comes  around  4124.14  crores.
Further, it was also pointed out  that  other  quarry  operators  have  also
indulged in similar illegal  quarry  operations  and  the  total  volume  of
illegal operations is estimated around  Rs.12390.460  crores.   Further,  it
was also pointed out that  several  criminal  cases  are  also  pending  for
carrying on illegal quarrying operations in the government land.

13.   We are of the view that, since  several  writ  petitions  are  pending
consideration before the  High  Court,  at  this  stage,  it  would  not  be
appropriate to pronounce upon the  various  contentions  raised  by  learned
senior counsel on either side on merits  of  the  case,  especially  in  the
light of the materials leading to the  issuance  of  the  suspension  orders
dated 14.12.2012 and the show cause notices  dated  Nil.12.2012.    
We  also
notice that the Division Bench of the High Court has issued  some  equitable
directions taking into consideration the interest of the  workers  and  also
for honouring  some  statutory  obligations  of  the  petitioner  firm.  
We,
therefore, find no reason to interfere  with  the  impugned  judgment  dated
15.2.2013 and the special leave petitions filed against those  orders  stand
dismissed.
            

                                     REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

             SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) NOS.18662-18663 OF 2013



M/s PRP Exports & Etc.                       …. Petitioners

           Verses

The Chief Secretary,
Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors.         …. Respondents




                               J U D G M E N T


K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.


1.    These Special Leave Petitions arise  out  of  a  common  judgment  and
order dated 15.2.2013 passed by the High Court of Judicature  at  Madras  in
W.A.  (MD)  Nos.906  and  907  of  2012.  
The  Petitioner  is  a  registered
partnership firm, engaged in the manufacture of dimensional granite  blocks,
slabs, tiles, monuments etc. and has set up  its  factory  for  cutting  and
polishing of  granite  in  Therkkutheru  Village,  Madurai  District.    
The
Petitioner firm, it is stated, is 100% export oriented unit,  recognized  by
the Madras Export Processing Zone. The Petitioner firm is having 55  granite
quarries leased in the Madurai District measuring about 584.83 acres.

2.    Alleging  that  the  Petitioner  firm  had  indulged  in  unauthorized
quarrying, the Respondent officials as well as the  District  Collector  and
Superintendent of  Police  took  steps  to  seal  the  Petitioners’  factory
premises,  vehicles  and  instruments  so  as  to  suspend   the   quarrying
operations in respect of the  above-mentioned  quarries.  
The  Petitioners,
therefore, approached the Madras High Court by filing  W.P.  (MD)  Nos.12441
and 12442 of 2012, which were heard by a learned Single Judge.

3.    Before the learned Single Judge, the State  also  took  up  the  stand
that the order of sealing dated  9.8.2012  was  illegal  and  could  not  be
supported in law.  
Taking note  of  the  stand  taken  by  the  State,  the
learned Single Judge observed as follows :-
      “124.`  It is also admitted case of the respondents, that  till  date,
      even show cause notice with regard to cancellation of licences granted
      in favour of the petitioner has not been issued, therefore,  there  is
      absolutely no justification with the respondents, to stop  the  mining
      operation  of  the  petitioner  over  the  mines  leased  out  to  the
      petitioner, and thereby taking the right of livelihood of thousands of
      employees working in the firm.”


4.    After hearing all the parties, the learned Single  Judge  disposed  of
the writ petitions on 2.11.2012.  
The  operative  portion  of  the  judgment
reads as follows :

      “130.  However, at the same time, the fact cannot be  lost  sight  off
      that there are number of cases registered against the partners of  the
      petitioner firm, and there are serious allegations of  illegal  mining
      worth of crores of rupees. 
Further more, in the  writ  petitions,  the
      positive stand of the writ petitioner is,  that  the  petitioners  are
      willing to co-operate with the  investigation  of  criminal  cases  in
      respect of furnishing all documents, records, books of accounts  which
      are sealed by the authorities  in  their  presence,  and  has  further
      undertaken not to tamper with any records, and will  not  destroy  any
      evidence whatsoever. 
The petitioner has also undertaken not to  threat
      any witnesses in the investigation. 
Therefore, a blanket order  to  be
      passed in favour of the petitioner may hamper the investigation, which
      cannot be permissible in law.


      131. Therefore, in order to settle equity, these  writ  petitions  are
      disposed of with the following directions:-


           1.    The respondents shall permit the  petitioner  to  continue
           the quarry operations over the leased property strictly in terms
           of the lease,  which  is  admittedly  in  force.  It  shall  be,
           however, open to the respondents to take appropriate  action  by
           following  due  process  of  law  under  The  Mines  &  Minerals
           (Development &  Regulation)  Act,  1957  and  the  Rules  framed
           thereunder, if so advised ;


           2.    The respondents shall henceforth release the bank accounts
           and to  allow  the  petitioner  to  carry  on  his  business  in
           accordance with law. However,  it  shall  be  the  duty  of  the
           petitioners to submit fortnightly Statement of Accounts  to  the
           Investigating Officer;


           3.    That the order restraining the export and  import  by  the
           Investigating Officer  is  ordered  to  be  quashed  and  it  is
           directed that the respondents shall not interfere in the  export
           and import on valid documents by the petitioner.


           4.    That the seal of the administrative  building  be  opened,
           after the Investigating  Officer  takes  in  possession  of  the
           documents,  the  computers,  hard  discs,  etc.,  required   for
           investigation. (As agreed between the parties, the petitioner is
           directed to depute two persons  along  with  an  expert,  if  so
           advised  to  be  present  at  the  administrative  building   on
           07.11.2012 (Wednesday) at  10.00  a.m.,  for  handing  over  the
           computers,  hard  discs,  documents,  available  in  the  sealed
           building, after transferring the datas from computers and making
           copies of the documents,  which  are  required  for  running  of
           business). It is made
           clear that the petitioner will be entitled to get copies of  the
           documents lying within the premises and permit the Investigating
           Officer to  take  away  the  Computers,  Hard  discs  and  other
           documents,  which  are  required  for  the  Investigation.  This
           process shall be completed  in  three  days  and  it  should  be
           completed on or before 09.11.2012 (Friday).


           5.    The Investigating Officer shall permit the  petitioner  to
           carry on their business.


           6.     With  regard  to  the  vehicles,  equipments  and   other
           accessories seized by the authorities under the  Motor  Vehicles
           Act, or in criminal cases, it shall be open to the petitioner to
           take appropriate remedy  in  accordance  with  law  for  reasons
           thereof.

      No costs.”

5.    The State, aggrieved by the judgment  of  the  learned  Single  Judge,
preferred Writ Appeal (MD) Nos. 906 and 907  of  2012  before  the  Division
Bench of the Madras High Court.  
While  dealing  with  various  directions
given by the learned Single Judge, the  State  represented  by  the  learned
Advocate General,  pointed  out  that,  during  the  pendency  of  the  writ
appeals, suspension orders dated 14.12.2012 were issued under Section  19(2)
of the Granite Conservation and Development Rules,  1999  as  well  as  Show
Cause Notices  dated  nil.12.2012  were  issued  to  the  writ  petitioners.
Further, it was also pointed out that the departmental proceedings  as  well
as the criminal proceedings initiated against the petitioners could  not  be
hampered by granting permission to them to carry on quarrying operations  in
their 56 quarries.  
The prayer made by the Advocate General was opposed  by
counsel appearing for the writ petitioners stating that  any  action   taken
by the Government subsequent to the passing of  the  order  by  the  learned
Single Judge could  not  be  the  basis  for  testing  the  correctness,  or
otherwise, of the  directions  given  by  the  learned  Single  Judge.  
 In
support of that contention, reliance was placed  on  the  judgment  of  this
Court in Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election  Commissioner,  New  Delhi  &
Ors. [1978) 1 SCC 405].

6.    The Division Bench of the Madras High Court formulated  two  questions
which read as follows :
      “(1)  Whether the appellants can  place  reliance  on  the  subsequent
      events, viz., passing of the suspension orders  dated  14.12.2012  and
      the issuance of  the  show  cause  notice  dated  Nil.12.2012  to  the
      respondents/writ petitioners firm? and

      (2)   Whether the provisions under the Special Law viz. The Mines  and
      Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and other  Rules,  can
      override the General Law, viz., the penal provisions under the  Indian
      Penal Code and the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure  in
      respect of the initiation of parallel proceedings, viz.,  departmental
      proceedings and criminal proceedings?”


7.     Shri  Harish  Salve,  learned  senior  counsel  appearing   for   the
Petitioner, submitted that he is more concerned with the first question  and
arguments were advanced by him as well as Shri C. Sundaram,  learned  senior
counsel appearing for the State, on that point. In our  view,  the  Division
Bench of the High Court is right in examining the subsequent events as  well
in a case where larger public interest  is  involved.   This  Court  in  All
India Railway Recruitment Board  v.  K.  Shyam  Kumar  [(2010)  6  SCC  614]
distinguished Mohinder Singh Gill’s case  (supra),  stating  when  a  larger
public interest is involved, the Court can always look into  the  subsequent
events.
Relevant paragraph of the judgment is extracted hereinbelow :-
      “45. We are of the view that the decision-maker can always  rely  upon
      subsequent materials to support the decision already taken when larger
      public interest is involved. 
This Court in Madhyamic  Shiksha  Mandal,
      M.P. v. Abhilash  Shiksha  Prasar  Samiti  found  no  irregularity  in
      placing reliance on a subsequent report to sustain the cancellation of
      the examination conducted where there were serious allegations of mass
      copying.
The principle laid down in Mohinder Singh Gill  case  is  not
      applicable where larger  public  interest  is  involved  and  in  such
      situations, additional grounds can  be  looked  into  to  examine  the
      validity of an order. 
The finding recorded by the High Court that  the
      report of CBI cannot be looked into to examine  the  validity  of  the
      order dated 4-6-2004, cannot be sustained.

8.    The  Government  and  the  District  Administration  received  lot  of
complaints with regard to illegal quarrying in  the Madurai District,  which
led the State Government directing the  District  Administration  to  verify
the complaints.  
The  District  Collector  inspected  various  quarries  and
submitted  a  preliminary  report  dated  19.5.2012.   
Subsequent   to   the
preliminary  report,  the  District  Administration  decided  to  conduct  a
comprehensive  and  scientific  survey  in  all  the  175  granite  quarries
functioning in the Madurai District.   
Considering the vast  area  involved,
the District  Administration  requested  the  Commissioner  of  Geology  and
Mining to  depute  officers  from  their  department  for  carrying  on  the
inspection.   Consequently, the Commissioner  of  Geology  and  Mining  vide
proceedings dated 4.8.2012 deputed six Assistant Geologists,  two  Surveyors
and two Sub Inspectors of Survey from various other Districts to assist  the
inspection  team  constituted  by   the   District   Administration.   
After
conducting a comprehensive and scientific survey, the  Deputy  Director  and
the Assistant Director of Geology and Mining submitted an Evaluation  Report
on 23.11.2012 on 88 granite quarries.   Among them, 16 quarries belonged  to
the Petitioner.   The inspection could not be  carried  out  in  22  granite
quarries due to water logging and among that 18  quarries  belonged  to  the
Petitioner.

9.    The Deputy Director and the Assistant Director of Geology  and  Mining in their Evaluation Report dated 23.11.2012  reported  that  the  Petitioner firm has not carried out the quarrying operations as per their  mining  plan and encroached upon the adjoining roads, tanks, channels  and  water  bodies
and illicitly quarried granites in the adjacent  non-leasehold  areas  also.
Further, it was also pointed out that 
there is  a  vast  difference  between
the quantity permitted  by  the  District  Mines  office  and  the  quantity quarried by the Petitioner firm.   
Consequently, it  was  pointed  out  that
they have violated Section 4-(1)  and  4-(1A)  of  the  Mines  and  Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.  
Further, it was  also  pointed  out
that they have not maintained the boundary stones and  the  safety  distance and thus violated the Rules 36(4) and 36(1) of the Tamil Nadu Minor  Mineral Concession Rules, 1959.  
It was also pointed out  that  
the  Petitioner  has not submitted the Scheme of Mining as per Rules 15 and  18  of  the  Granite Conservation and Development Rules, 1999 and has not stored the over  burden
and waste materials as earmarked.  
Various other violations have  also  been pointed out.

10.    The  District  Administration  then  forwarded  the  Inspection   cum
Evaluation Report dated  23.11.2012  to  the  Commissioner  of  Geology  and
Mining on 4.12.2012 and pointed out that the lessees have not submitted  the
scheme of mining as required under sub-rules (2) and (3) of Rule 18  of  the
Granite Conservation and Development Rules, 1999 and that the  lessees  have
carried out large scale unauthorized quarrying in  the  leasehold  area  and
the adjoining non-leasehold area.
The Commissioner of  Geology  and  Mining
vide its  letter  dated  6.12.2012  also  recommended  for  further  action.
Consequently, under Sub-Rule (2) of Rule 19 of the Granite Conservation  and
Development Rules, 1999, the Government suspended the mining  operations  in
respect of 78 granite quarries of Madurai District and, among the  same,  20
quarries belong to the Petitioner firm were suspended on 14.12.2012 and  the
copies of the suspension orders were issued to the Petitioner firm.

11.    Shri  Harish  Salve,  learned  senior  counsel  appearing   for   the
Petitioners  submitted  that  the  Petitioner  has  already  challenged  the
suspension orders in the Madras High Court in W.P. (MD) No.3829 of 2013  and
the connected  writ  petitions  and  the  Court  has  granted  stay  of  the
suspension orders and  hence  the  Respondents  should  have  permitted  the
Petitioners to operate the granite quarries  in  the  leasehold  area.  Shri
Salve also submitted that
the show cause notices dated 25.2.2013  issued  to
the Petitioners are also under challenge in W.P. (MD) No.3012  of  2013  and
other connected cases before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court  and
the Court has issued an interim order directing the District  Collector  not
to pass final orders, pursuant to the suspension  orders.  
The  Court  also
has reserved its judgment.  Learned senior counsel  also  submitted  that  a
series of writ petitions are  also  pending  challenging  the  deemed  lapse
notices.   
In such circumstances, learned senior  counsel  prayed  that  the
Petitioners may be allowed to operate the quarries in  accordance  with  the
licences already granted.

12.   We find it difficult to accede to that  request  made  by  the  senior
counsel, at this stage,  
especially  in  the  wake  of  the  report  of  the
District Collector dated 19.5.2012 as well  as  the  report  of  the  Deputy
Director of Geology and Mining dated 23.11.2012.  In the affidavit filed  by
the third respondent,  it  is  pointed  out,  that  the  volume  of  illegal
transportation from the  petitioners’  16  quarries  is  around  1207863.164
Cubic Meters and show cause notices have been issued to the Petitioner  firm
under Section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development  and  Regulation)
Act, 1957 for recovery of the cost.  
It is stated  that  the  value  of  the
illicit quarry in  the  16  quarries  alone  comes  around  4124.14  crores.
Further, it was also pointed out  that  other  quarry  operators  have  also
indulged in similar illegal  quarry  operations  and  the  total  volume  of
illegal operations is estimated around  Rs.12390.460  crores.   Further,  it
was also pointed out that  several  criminal  cases  are  also  pending  for
carrying on illegal quarrying operations in the government land.

13.   We are of the view that, since  several  writ  petitions  are  pending
consideration before the  High  Court,  at  this  stage,  it  would  not  be
appropriate to pronounce upon the  various  contentions  raised  by  learned
senior counsel on either side on merits  of  the  case,  especially  in  the
light of the materials leading to the  issuance  of  the  suspension  orders
dated 14.12.2012 and the show cause notices  dated  Nil.12.2012.  
We  also
notice that the Division Bench of the High Court has issued  some  equitable
directions taking into consideration the interest of the  workers  and  also
for honouring  some  statutory  obligations  of  the  petitioner  firm.  
We,
therefore, find no reason to interfere  with  the  impugned  judgment  dated
15.2.2013 and the special leave petitions filed against those  orders  stand
dismissed.

                                                             ………………………….……J.
                              (K.S. Radhakrishnan)




                                                              ………………………………J.
                                         (A.K. Sikri)
New Delhi
December 13, 2013




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