September 1, 2021 11:55:45 am
The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Tiruppur district Collector to forthwith close 64 unlicenced quarries operating in Uthukuli taluk there.
Justice R Mahadevan, who ordered the closure, also directed the Collector to initiate criminal action against those who operated the unlicenced quarries, in Morattupalayam village in Tiruppur, as well as those who were instrumental in allowing them to operate such as the Village Administrative Officer (VAO), Tahsildar, Revenue Divisional (RDO) and District Revenue Officers (DRO) and other authorities concerned, besides initiating appropriate proceedings to recover the loss caused to the exchequer.
The judge gave the directions after taking note of the magnitude of the violations of stone quarrying lease in the area, while passing interim orders on a writ petition from a licenced quarry operator.
According to the petitioner, he was given a lease for stone quarrying in January 2016 for five years in respect of his patta land measuring 1.09 hectare in Morattupalayam village. During the subsistence of the lease, the Collector cancelled the licence on January 25 this year for alleged violation of the lease conditions. Challenging this, he moved the High Court.
Petitioner contended that several stone quarries had been operating in the area without license and following the conditions of lease, however, the petitioner alone was discriminated against. To find out the truth, the court had appointed an Advocate-Commissioner, who after conducting inspections, submitted a report on August 17 this year.
After going through the contents, the judge found that the report contained shocking revelations about the illegal stone quarries being operated in the area. They had been permitted by the authorities to operate illegally all these years. As per the report, 64 stone quarries operated without any licence or lease. Further, of the 24 licenced quarries, 18 were inspected and all the lease holders had violated the conditions in one way or the other and indulged in quarrying the land beyond the permissible limits. He also found two lorries running in the very same registration number.
Thus, the report of the A-C had blown the lid off as to how stone quarrying was being operated without even any licence or lease and thereby causing loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer besides environmental loss to the State. It also revealed the apathy of the administration in not carrying out any inspection, much less periodical inspection, of the quarrying activities in the area, which had emboldened the violators to indulge in quarrying activities without any lease or licence, the judge said.
The judge also directed the Collector to issue show cause notices to the licenced stone quarry operators for the violations pointed out by the A-C and to proceed further in accordance with law. The Regional Transport Officer (RTO) should seize all the vehicles having the same registration numbers, the judge said.
After directing the Collector to file a compliance report, the judge adjourned the matter till September 6.
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