The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to challenge before a Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court a single judge's interim order suspending operation of the Environment and Forests Ministry's notification directing that no mining activity be carried out until a survey was completed of six mines, including the Obulapuram Mines.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and T.S. Thakur dismissed as withdrawn the Centre's special leave petition (SLP), which sought a direction to quash the December 11, 2009 order. The Supreme Court asked the Division Bench of the High Court to dispose of the appeal in two weeks.

The SLP said it raised substantial questions of law on the power of the High Court to issue interim orders, which in effect give final relief, and its propriety in entertaining a matter which is sub judice before the Supreme Court. The SLP also raised a question on the powers and jurisdiction of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court.

The CEC, in its report to the Supreme Court on November 19, 2009, said that since there was encroachment, mining operation should be stayed and a fresh survey conducted. The Ministry accepted the report and passed an order on November 30, directing that no mining be permitted until demarcation was completed. It said the approval granted, under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, in favour of Bellary Iron ore Private limited, Obulapuram Mining Company Pvt. Ltd. and four adjacent mines stood suspended with immediate effect.

On a writ petition from Obulapuram Mines Ltd., the High Court on December 11, 2009 suspended the notification. The SLP, against this order, said the Centre ordered the suspension of mining operations for violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the notification was in conformity with the Act.