The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday came down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh government on the issue of illegal sand mining in Yamuna river saying it was “shocked” by its behaviour of arresting mere truck drivers rather than owners of the vehicles.

“Can’t the State be fair ever,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked.

“You have not touched a single person who owns the trucks, dumpers or heavy excavating machinery... It shocks us that you have picked up the drivers. Can’t the State be fair ever,” the bench said in relation to the names of 18 people, allegedly carrying out illegal sand mining in Gautam Budh Nagar district, that the State government had submitted.

The bench told the counsel for the State that several of the 18 people were present in the tribunal on the last date of hearing, September 26, but it had not been informed about the same by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Gautam Budh Nagar and as a result bailable warrants were issued against them.

“These poor people were sitting outside (the courtroom). They came to my chamber afterwards, fearing they would be arrested. It is very unfortunate the way you (UP) have behaved,” Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The tribunal directed the SSP and other senior officials of the district to appear before it on next date of hearing, October 9.

The bench also modified its order of September 26, when it had sought the presence of 11 people arrested in connection with theft of 80 per cent of the over two lakh cubic metre of sand seized by the mining department of the district, by issuing production warrants for them as they are currently in jail.

The 18 people had been directed to appear before the tribunal in pursuance to show cause notices issued to them earlier to explain why they be not punished as well as made to pay compensation for damaging the environment by violating the August 5 ban by NGT on illegal sand mining.