Bench said that it was not inclined to accept Ministry report on granting environmental clearance

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to vacate its stay order restraining the French company Lafarge from conducting mining operations in Meghalaya.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia and Aftab Alam made it clear that the interim order of stay on mining passed on February 5 could not be vacated until appropriate reports relating to plans and environment were submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) after receipt of proper proposals from the company. The Bench said that it was not inclined to accept the April 22 report of the MoEF granting environmental clearance for allowing mining activities with certain conditions as suggested by the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati.

The Bench accepted the submissions of Amicus curiae Harish Salve and senior counsel P.S. Narasimha that all the procedures had been violated in this case just because it was foreign company. Mr. Salve submitted that reports in respect of four crucial aspects were necessary before the court could consider allowing the mining operations.

Mr. Narasimha said while a foreign company was welcome to invest in India, it must conform to Indian laws. In this case the entire procedure had been violated if mining was allowed without following the laws, it would send wrong signals, he said.

Mr. Salve said that a study as stipulated for preparation of a comprehensive engineering and biological measures with scheduled plan of execution for approval was required to be submitted to the MoEF. Periodical assessment of flora and fauna including a time-bound plan for conservation of the same should be undertaken immediately by the project proponent as recommended in the Digital Mapping report.

A comprehensive Bio-diversity conservation with provision of time-bound implementation should be prepared by the state agency and requisite fund for implementation in a time-bound manner might be provided by the company. The Bench asked the MoEF to come out with the reports on these aspects in July.