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SC seeks Centre's reply in 4 weeks on plea for quashing of 358 mining leases

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: July 4, 2019  | 17:03 IST

New Delhi, Jul 4 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Centre to file its reply in four weeks on a plea 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. The Centre sought some time from the court to file its reply to the plea. A bench of Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai allowed it four weeks and said that the issue needs to be heard at length, while listing it on a non-miscellaneous matters day. Petitioner advocate M L Sharma contended that mining leases were granted or extended without following the due procedure in law. Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the court that a "mala fide" plea has been filed and he wants some time to respond to it. On April 16, the apex court had asked the Centre to respond to Sharma's plea which has also sought a direction to the CBI to register an FIR to probe the matter. The top court had appointed senior advocate P S Narasimha as amicus curiae to assist it in the case. The plea has alleged that in February this year it came to Sharma's knowledge that 288 mining leases were extended in exchange of "large donations" to political parities which has created a "serious financial loss" to the tune of Rs 4 lakhs crore to public exchequer. The petitioner has claimed that leases have been either granted or extended to the firms for mining iron ores in over 358 mines without either any fresh evaluation or adopting the auction process. It has also sought directions for recovery of market value of the mined minerals 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 alleging that it 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. No where 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," the plea has said. It has said that 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 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 50 years and on expiry of lease period, it should be put up for auction as per the procedure specified in the Act. "It is revealed to the petitioner that a large amount of political donation has been given by the corporate miner for the impugned provisions (of MMDR Act) for extension of the mining lease as free of cost from escaping auction process which is also a subject matter for CBI investigation and calling list of mines from all states for further action," the plea said. The petitioner has also referred to media reports on the issue of mining leases in some states. "All old lease of the minerals mining, except coal block, has been extended for further 5 to 20 years under the garb of the amendment of 2015 without charging any cost/ premium and fresh value to pay for mining while new mines has been put up for auction which were auctioned for 80 per cent to 110 per cent premium other then royalty etc," it said. The plea has made ministries of Law, Mines and Minerals and states of Odisha and Karnataka as parties along with the CBI. PTI MNL ABA SA

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