Judgement Name: the State of Bihar and Others v. Pawan Kumar and Others etc CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 36613662 OF 2020, order dated 12.11.2021.
Court Name: Supreme Court of India
Facts: The appeal challenges the order of the NGT dated October 14th 2020 which directed the State to prepare fresh DSRs for the purpose of sand mining in the district of Banka. The DSRs were ordered to be prepared through consultants accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Education and Quality Control Council of India. The DSRs were to be submitted to the District Magistrate who would verify in terms of physical and geographical features and forward them to the State Expert Appraisal Committee for scientific analysis who would further forward it to the State Environmental Impact Expert Authority for consideration and approval. The appellant has challenged the said order on various grounds and has approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court
- Whether sand mining can be allowed to continue in the district of Banka?
Appellant’s contentions: The appellants contended that the Tribunal has made a mistake in holding that the purpose of sand mining cannot be carried out unless the State Expert Appraisal Committee and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority grants approval to the District Survey Report for the same and has also erred in DSRs prepared by the State did not conform to requisite procedures and other relevant factors. It was argued that the invitation of tenders without preparation of the District Survey Report should not be done and that the tenders can only be invited in accordance with the DSR prepared by the District Level Committee and any successful bidder should prepare a mining plan subject to the approval of the SEAC and SEIAA without which environmental clearance for the continuation of mining activities would not be granted. In this regard, it was submitted that not only were the procedures and relevant factors for DSRs complied with but also material in support of the same was also placed on record before the Tribunal. Therefore, it was contended that the judgement and order passed by the National Green Tribunal dated 14th October 2020 be set aside and the State finalize the tenders received by it and be permitted to undertake mining activities through the Bihar State Mining Corporation until the DSRs are finalized.
Respondent’s contentions: The respondent submitted that the Tribunal has rightfully held that the DSRs weren’t prepared in conformity with the prescribed procedures and guidelines and that the State has only taken into consideration monetary benefits without taking into account the environmental repercussions.
Findings and Observation of the Court: The Supreme Court held that until the DSRs are finalized and approved by the SEAC and SEIAA, certain necessary arrangements can be permitted for the State to continue with legal mining activities. This would not only prevent illegal mining activities but also make sure that the public exchequer does not suffer because of lack of mining activities and it can have a share in the mining activities. The Court pointed out the need for a balanced approach in ensuring sustainable development of the environment and observed that the banning of legal mining would give rise to illegal mining which would result in clashes between sand mafias, criminal activities and the loss of human lives. Further, sand is essential for the construction of public and private infrastructural projects and a total ban on the same would not only exacerbate illegal mining but also cause a huge loss to the public exchequer. The Court ordered the DSRs to be examined by the SEAC within a period of six weeks and a report to be forwarded to the SEIAA within the aforesaid period with strict observance of the policies and guidelines.
Opinion: In my opinion, this judgement gives great importance to the balance between environmental sustainability and economic necessity as the Court rightly held that mining activities should be allowed to continue as it would ensure the prevention of illegal mining activities and promote economic benefits in the form of increased construction which is an essential activity and influx of funds to the public exchequer.
Judgement Date– November 10, 2021
Judges Bench- L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai, JJ
Writer name: Anuthama Chandrasekhar
College Name: SASTRA DEEMED UNIVERSITY