The State government can no longer grant lease for granite quarrying on ‘virgin lands’ by processing applications from individuals or firms.

The government has to mandatorily adopt ‘tender-cum-auction’ procedure to choose the lessee.

Once the competent authority notifies the ‘virgin lands’— land belonging to the State government where quarrying activity was not permitted till then — to permit quarrying, then the only course open to it to grant land for quarrying lease is by notification directing adoption of tender-cum-auction, the Karnataka High Court has ruled.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna passed the order on a public interest litigation petition filed by B.M. Gangaiah and others, all residents of Handlagere village of Kunigal taluk in Tumkur district. The petitioners contended that the government violated provisions of the Karnataka Minor Minerals Concession (KMMC) Rules, 1994 in granting lease in favour of one Ananya Exports Pvt. Ltd. for quarrying multi-coloured granite on gomal land belonging to the government.

“The court cannot countenance the argument that the government has any discretion in the matter of granting lease for quarrying any specified or non-specified minor mineral from any area under Rule 8-B [of KMMC Rules] and without adopting the method of tender-cum-auction for granting lease for such an area,” the Bench observed.

The Bench said that the method of granting quarrying lease by processing applications received from the interested individual or firm could be adopted for grant of leases in those lands that were already granted for quarrying earlier, and not in cases of granting ‘virgin lands’ for granite quarrying.

‘Illegal’

Pointing out that the government had not followed the tender-cum-auction process in granting quarrying lease in favour of the firm specified in the PIL, the Bench declared the action of the government illegal and in violation of the express provisions of the rules.

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