Uttarakhand high court stays new mining rules, issues notice to state govt.

By- Gautam Choudhary

The new mining laws (Uttarakhand Minor-Minerals (Concession) (Amendment) Rules, 2021) notified by the state government on October 28 last year have been suspended by the Uttarakhand high court. The state government, the director geology, and mining unit (under the industries department), the district mining officer Nainital, and the sub-divisional magistrate Nainital have all been served with notices by the court. The respondents have been given four weeks to respond to the notices.

While hearing a case filed by Nainital-based Satyendra Kumar Tomar in December last year, a division bench of acting chief judge SK Mishra and Justice Alok Kumar Verma granted these directives on Thursday. “The notification is an attempt to indulgently turn state mining policy of competitive bidding into a joint consent cum recommendation,” the petitioner explained. The petition claims that the notification was in violation of Articles 14, 19(1)(g), and 21 of the Indian Constitution, because it allots mining leases through a recommendatory mechanism rather than competitive bidding, completely disregarding the State Mining Policy of 2017. “Despite the state government’s issuance of another office on November 10, 2021, which provides for a proper competitive e-tender/e-bidding even on affected Abadi (residential) and agricultural land, mining interests are still being handed out arbitrarily to vested interests on private lands purely on the basis of recommendations,” the petition continued.

According to the new laws, “for the purpose of development of land in the hills and plains of Uttarakhand, ordinary soil” can be used, according to Suhas Ratna Joshi, the petitioner’s lawyer. When the hill is cut, the basement is excavated, or the land is leveled, the material can be transported to another plot of the same private land or to any other plot, and it is no longer considered mining. As a result, there will be no requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the aforementioned category. If ordinary soil is moved from a plot of private land to another location for commercial purposes, the said person must pay the royalty at the rates set forth in the First Schedule of the Rules for the time being.”