Days after the MB Shah Commission report on illegal mining was tabled in Parliament, two companies that hold mining leases in Orissa have approached the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of the report on grounds that it had indicted them without giving an opportunity to be heard.
The two petitioners — RB Das and Narayani Sons Private Limited — who have mining leases in the state’s iron-ore rich Sundargarh and Keonjhar districts, have argued against the commission’s report which they claimed have accused them of violating relevant provisions of the Environment Protection Act and extracting minerals without the requisite green clearance.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Parag Tripathi said the adverse findings in the report would affect the reputation of their clients.
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The senior advocates argued that the panel prepared its report without following the procedure laid out under Commission of Enquiry Act, under which they were to be given an opportunity to be heard, while the information submitted by the state government against them was to be shared with them.
“We were not heard. We were not told what allegations were made against us by the state government. The Commission also refused to give us the information against us that was given to it by the state,” the lawyers for the petitioners said.
In the report, the Commission has held unlawful mining in Orissa as “one of the biggest ever” seen by it and has strongly suggested that this is an apt case for being handed over to the CBI for a thorough probe.
While presenting arguments before the court of Justice Manmohan, the lawyers stated that they had accessed extracts of the recently tabled report. Appearing on behalf of the Central government, Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra also informed the court that the entire report had not been tabled before Parliament.
The court then observed that it could not take cognisance of a report that was supposedly available on the internet, and has asked the petitioners to file an affidavit before the court with the relevant report.
Among the two petitioners, RB Das holds two leases for mining iron ore and manganese in villages Dalpahar and Kundrupani of district Keonjhar while Narayani Sons has licences for mining in villages Surguturia and Raikela in districts Keonjhar and Sundargarh, respectively.
Lawyers for the petitioners argued that the report has been leaked to the media and there was an apprehension that FIRs could be lodged based on news reports quoting the panel’s findings, as had happened in Goa. The court then asked for affidavits to be filed on the FIRs in the case.