SC seeks reply from Centre, 5 states on plea alleging illegal sand mining

Plea alleges states doing little to curb illegal mining, seeks CBI inquiry, cancellation of mine licenses

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice and sought the response of the central government and five states -- Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh -- on a plea seeking investigation into ongoing illegal sand mining in these domains. The states, the plea alleges, have been unable to check the menace of illegal sand mining which has led to significant environmental degradation over the years.

A three-judge Bench of the top court headed by Justice S A Bobde initially asked the petitioner to approach the high court, but later issued notices to the respondents, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“Illegal sand mining activities involve the local mafia which also uses arms and weapons to run the racket of illegal sand mining and such illegal operations lead to the loss of around thousands of crores to the public exchequer.  Hence, there is requirement for the personnel such as the CBI to look into the illegal sand mining cases,” the plea said.

The states should also cancel the mining lease of these companies and going ahead, there no environmental clearance should be accorded to any sand mining project without conducting fresh environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan, and public consultations, the plea in the top court said.

In an earlier verdict, the Supreme Court had held that leases for mining of minor minerals in an area less than five hectare as well as the permissions for the renewal of their contracts would be granted only after fresh environmental impact assessment was done.

“The government is guilty of dereliction of duty as it has failed to fulfil their responsibility of protecting the natural resources by failing to formulate or implement an effective mechanism for monitoring and controlling sand mining activities. Among other things, an effective mechanism ought to include better policing, installation of cameras at quarries and loading docks, formation of a dedicated law enforcement team to deal with illegal sand mining,” said Abhishek Prasad, advocate for the petitioner.