Instead of filing the Shah Commission report on illegal mining in Odisha before the Supreme Court as ordered, the UPA government has pleaded that the report be kept under wraps. In a fresh application the government has asked the Supreme Court to amend its previous order accordingly.
The government in its latest plea has asked that once the report is tabled in Parliament it should be submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope and not shared either with the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) of the court or the petitioners in the case.
The UPA government had earlier classified the report as secret. The Hindu had leaked parts of the report which showed gross and systematic violation of mining and environmental laws running over years to extract iron ore that the Commission reported to be worth upwards of Rs. 59,000 crore. The Commission has blamed both the Centre and the State for the rampant illegal mining.
The government’s move to block public disclose of the report comes after the court ordered in the previous hearing that the government should provide copies of the report by January 27 to the petitioners as well as the CEC. The Union government had gone unrepresented during the hearing.
The government classified the scathing report as secret and kept it under wraps for months while deciding not to permit the Commission another extension to finish its work. Under law, the report should have been tabled in parliament within six months of being submitted but the government failed to do so. When the petitioners — Goa Foundation, an NGO and S.R. Hiremath, an activist— went to court asking that the Commission be given an extension, the Attorney General tried to get the Environment Ministry to join the case and state that the report had been labelled secret because it had then not been considered by the Cabinet and therefore should not be made public.
Now it has been considered by the Cabinet. The Environment Ministry and the Mining Ministry had prepared an action taken report against the Commission’s report which has been referred to a committee of secretaries in turn by the Cabinet.