THE ALLAHABAD High Court has cancelled at least 19 leases for mining of minor minerals along river Ken in Banda and Hamirpur districts on a PIL alleging that these leases were granted or renewed in violation of the norms set by the state government.
A division bench of Justices Dilip Gupta and Vinod Kumar Misra passed the order on Friday while hearing a PIL filed by Udaypal, a resident of Hamirpur.
The PIL cited a Government Order (GO) of May 31, 2012, in which it was provided that any new lease for mining of minor minerals would be granted/renewed through the process of e-tendering. The PIL alleged that all the leases were granted or renewed after the GO was issued.
Agreeing with the petitioner’s contention, the bench said: “As the records indicate, leases were granted/renewed in favour of respondent No. 4 to 22 under Chapter II and not in the manner prescribed under Chapter IV (pertaining to e-tendering) of the Rules (UP Minor Minerals-Concession-Rules, 1963). The grant/renewal of the leases… and the execution of the lease deeds in their (respondents’) favour are illegal and deserve to be set aside.”
The court left it open for the state government to carry out an inquiry and take action against the officers responsible and also the licensees if their role was found to be suspect.
The court rejected the contention of the state government that the applications pending with the District Collectors should be construed as having been granted permission in which case, the Rules of e-tendering would not have applied.
The court also dealt at length with the objection raised on the maintainability of the PIL with claims that the petitioner had many criminal cases registered against him and had approached the court at the behest of some of the traders who had failed to get the licence.
“Though a bald averment has been made that the petition had been filed at the behest of some unsuccessful applicants, nothing has been brought on record to substantiate this allegation. This apart, mere pendency of some criminal cases against the petitioner would not mean that the petitioner cannot maintain a Public Interest Litigation.”
The court said that the respondents have not been able to establish the “mala fide intent” of the petitioner. Besides, it cited the Supreme Court rulings to point out that when the matters like allotment of public property by the state was concerned, the courts should look at whether this has been done as per norms or not.