The Supreme Court has stayed the Allahabad High Court order directing CBI probe into illegal mining across Uttar Pradesh, saying it was passed without proper application of mind or examining preliminary enquiry reports filed by the CBI. “The impugned order shall remain stayed to the extent the same directs the CBI to register criminal cases and to continue investigation in the same,” a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A M Khanwilkar said.
“We, however, make it clear that this order shall not prevent the High Court from examining the preliminary investigation/enquiry reports submitted by the CBI and kept in a sealed cover in the High Court and passing a fresh order after due and proper application of mind and after hearing the State against the same in accordance with law,” it said. During the hearing, senior advocate Anil Diwan appearing for Uttar Pradesh said the High Court had passed the order without even examining the preliminary investigation reports.
He said the order was passed without proper application of mind as there was no specific allegation of illegal mining in the state and hence the CBI be stopped from investigating the matter. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one Sonu Kumar and others, said the High Court has rightly passed the order as illegal mining was being carried out in connivance with officials in the state machinery.
He alleged that concerned authorities responsible for checking illegal mining were themselves facilitating mining across the state. Bhushan said the mining leases of a number of lessees had been “unlawfully extended” in the state after their expiry in May, 2012. To this, the bench said had the High Court gone through preliminary investigation report filed by CBI in sealed cover and asked for registration of criminal cases, then it would have been another matter.
“The High Court did not even open the report filed by CBI in sealed cover. Hence the order was passed without proper application of mind,” the bench said. On September 9, the Allahabad High Court had rejected an application by the UP government for withdrawal of a July 28 order, whereby the CBI was directed to probe allegations of illegal mining across the state. The CBI which was asked by the High Court to file its report within six weeks had submitted its findings in a sealed cover.
On July 28, the High Court had directed it to investigate the matter across the state, including the role of government officials in facilitating the same, and submit a report within six weeks. It had expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation given in an affidavit by the state’s Principal Secretary (Mining) and said his submission that a committee has been set up to look into illegal mining activities in the state was “an eyewash”.
The court had held that the affidavit did not adequately address the petitioners’ contention that illegal mining was being carried out in collusion with government officials and the claim, made in affidavits filed in course of hearing on the PIL by district magistrates, that no such activity was taking place in their respective areas of jurisdiction, was “false”. The court had also remarked that the affidavit filed by the Principal Secretary was “irresponsible” and “on wrong foundations”.