Orissa High Court has nominated the district and sessions judges of Kalahandi and Rayagada to act as observers in the much-awaited Gram Sabha (village level meetings) to decide fate of the proposed bauxite mining for Vedanta atop Niyamgiri Hills.
“The High Court Registrar General has informed the state government about the decision to nominate the district judges of Kalahandi and Rayagada for the proposed Gram Sabhas,” Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development secretary Santosh Sarangi told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Stating that the state government had earlier requested the High Court to nominate a district judge level judicial officer for the purpose of holding the gram sabha as per the Supreme Court order, Mr. Sarangi said the ST and SC department has already intimated the development to the district collectors of Kalahandi and Rayagada.
The Collectors of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts will intimate the schedule of Gram Sabha to their respective district judges in advance, Mr. Sarangi said.
According to the state government’s proposal, the gram sabhas would be conducted in 12 hill slope villages, Mr. Sarangi said adding while seven villages were located in Rayagada district, five are in Kalahandi. Niyamgiri Hills are spread over these two districts.
As per the Supreme Court’s April 18 judgement, meetings of the Gram Sabhas would be held under direct supervision of a judicial official equal to the rank of district judge to ensure that the process (Gram Sabhas) be held without the influence either of the Centre, State or the company authority.
The Apex Court, in its landmark judgement, gave power to the Gram Sabha to decide whether bauxite mining should be allowed in eco-fragile mountain. The Supreme Court delivered this order while deliberating upon a case of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) vs Ministry of Environment and Forest.
The state owned OMC which planned to supply bauxite ore to Vedanta’s refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district was aggrieved after MoEF rejected environmental clearance to its Rs 5,000 crore mining project.