Dismissing the anticipatory bail applications of 17 people booked for theft and under MMDR (Mines Minerals, Development and Regulation) Act, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sought a report from the state within three months regarding the requisite steps taken to curb illegal sand mining.
A single bench of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi passed the order on August 14 while hearing the anticipatory bail pleas of 17 drivers/owners of the tippers booked for alleged illegal mining of sand from riverbed of Satluj in the area of Shamashpur. As per Rahon police station, SBS Nagar district, a total of 50 people have been booked in the matter while 33 have already been arrested.
The HC bench had granted interim bail to the petitioners on June 17, directing them to join investigation.
The court also impleaded the director, department of mines and geology, Punjab, as a respondent, and directed him to submit an affidavit detailing the instructions issued to the officers concerned and also action taken for preventing illegal mining in the state, and apprehension and prosecution of the offenders.
V N Zade, director, department of mines and geology, in an affidavit described 11 steps taken/to be taken by the state to curb illegal mining, and claimed that since April 2020, 201 FIRs have been registered and 299 vehicles have been confiscated.
The counsel for the petitioners argued before the HC bench that there is no specific allegation against the petitioners to connect them with the alleged offences. Therefore, he sought anticipatory bail for them. The Punjab government, however, opposed the plea by stating that petitioners are owners/drivers of the vehicles used for illegal mining from unauthorised place, and they do not deserve grant of anticipatory bail.
After hearing the arguments, the HC held, “Due to undesirable human interference with forces of nature, the calamities, which were a few years back considered to be un-scientific fiction or remote possibilities, have turned into harsh realities and become nightmares in many parts of the world endangering human life and even posing a threat to the very existence of mankind if remedial measures are not taken. Sustainable development with ecological balance is the only permissible way of life. There is urgent need for creating widespread awareness and generating public commitment and support for the cause.”
“It will, therefore, be appropriate that appropriate proceedings are initiated for confiscation of the vehicles at the time of filing of the complaint/challan,” the HC ruled.
Regarding the anticipatory bail plea, the HC observed, “Illegal mining/theft of sand from river beds not only involves loss of public exchequer but also endangers ecological balance resulting in enundating floods causing huge loss of lives and property and other devastating consequences. Persons involved have to be sternly dealt with and effective steps have also to be taken to deny the fruits of crime to them. Therefore, the Courts cannot be liberal in the matter of grant of bail to persons allegedly involved in offence of illegal mining/theft of sand.”
The bench held that though they have joined investigation, custodial interrogation of the petitioners is necessary for a proper and thorough investigation of the case.