Making it clear that the French company Lafarge should comply with Indian laws and get a fresh Environment Impact Assessment done for its limestone mines in Meghalaya forests, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to vacate its stay on mining operations.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia and Aftab Alam said it would not permit mining unless the cement company obtained environment clearance as per the guidelines of the Central Empowered Committee.

Why exception?

When Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati submitted a proposal for payment of compensation of about Rs. 55 crore and Rs. 10 crore every year, senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Lafarge, said it was acceptable to the company. When Mr. Vahanvati pleaded for allowing mining operations, Justice Kapadia told him: “We do not give permission for any mining activity without EIA done. If this court has not allowed anyone to do mining without EIA, why should we allow you as an exception?”

While posting the matter to April 9, the Bench asked the Attorney-General to prepare a draft order on the EIA and the conditions that could be imposed on Lafarge for continuing the mining operations. The AG said he would ensure that at least a short EIA was done after informing the people of the area of the committee's visit.

Even as amicus curiae Harish Salve suggested that the AG's proposal be accepted, senior counsel P.S. Narasimha, appearing for the petitioners opposing mining operations, pointed out that till now the French firm had not obtained environment clearance and no EIA had been done. The company was allowed mining on the basis of a wrong clearance that the land was not forest land. When all Indian mines were not allowed without EIA or environmental clearance, why should special preference be shown to the French company?

Mr. Salve endorsed Mr. Narasimha's submissions and said that without a fresh EIA done no mining activity should be permitted.

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