In a setback to the Reddy brothers of Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Monday stayed all further mining activities by the Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) in Andhra Pradesh.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma appointed an expert committee headed by the Survey of India to review the mining areas and ascertain allegations of large-scale encroachment on reserve forest areas by the powerful mining lobby.

The court granted the committee two weeks to file its report, and said no further mining would be permitted at the site until further orders.

The Bench issued notice to Karnataka Ministers G. Janardhan Reddy and G. Karunakara Reddy on a special leave petition filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the February 26 High Court order quashing the cancellation orders passed by the State.

“Findings ignored”

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati said the High Court ignored the findings of the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the high-level inquiry committee of the State government.

Both committees, after independent inquiries, concluded that the Reddy brothers had encroached on vast hectares of reserve forest areas in Andhra Pradesh.

The High Court decided the matter as the case was sent back to it by the Supreme Court on January 14 with a direction to dispose it of within a month after both the OMC and the Andhra Pradesh government had given their consent.

The Supreme Court felt that the High Court, which earlier gave a conditional order for the OMC to carry on mining, would be in the best position to decide the vexed issue of boundary dispute involved in the matter, and allowed all parties to make their case before the High Court.

“Pillars removed”

The Andhra Pradesh government alleged that the OMC extended the area of mining by removing pillars which formed the boundary of the area for which a lease was granted.

The government issued an order prohibiting mining after the CEC had recommended stoppage of mining by the company in the area. The CEC was constituted by the Supreme Court on a writ petition by Tapal Ganesh of Bellary against the OMC over alleged illegal mining in violation of the Forest Conservation Act.