Upholding the entire Rule 8-A of the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules (TNMMCR), the Madras High Court has observed that granite, a precious natural resource, cannot be allowed to be exploited in a manner that is not being properly regulated.
Setting aside a single Judge's order in a batch of petitions, a Division Bench, comprising Justices R. Banumathi and B. Rajendran, in its 80-page judgment observed: “Sustainable development can be achieved only by caring for involvement by scientific quarrying. Primarily, the State is concerned to consider the importance of minerals and also impose appropriate conditions in preserving environment and at the same time ensuring industrial development. “When the State government has imposed the condition of utilisation of mineral in own industry set up in Tamil Nadu to promote the industries within the State of Tamil Nadu and in furtherance of its industrial policy, it cannot be said to be ultra vires the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act or beyond the legislative competence of the State Government's power.”
The quarry operators had challenged the amendments made to Rule 8-A by a G.O. dated February 22, 2001. They consequently sought a direction to the government to grant prospecting licence for lands indicated in the petitions.
The operators claimed they had the statutory right to apply for prospecting and mining leases in respect of any granite bearing lands. The government, by the impugned G.O., had taken away the rights to obtain prospecting licence. Once the Centre had framed the rules, State government was not empowered to frame any rule contrary to the said rules.
The State government contended that the TNMMCR was in consonance with Granite Conservation and Development (GCD) Rules and the MMDR Act.
The Single Judge struck down Rule 8-A of TNMMCR holding that it was contrary to GCD rules and ultra vires section 15 of the MMDR Act as the State government had not carried out the scheme of GCD rules strictly. Aggrieved, the State Government preferred appeals.
Advocate-General P.S.Raman contended that prospecting licence procedure in government lands was not envisaged because to ensure transparency and augment State revenue, the areas will be leased out under tender-cum-auction only after establishing occurrence of granite deposit in that particular area as envisaged under the GCD rules.
(A prospecting licence is issued for the purpose of exploring or locating or proving the granite deposits.)
Allowing the government appeals, the Bench concluded that the rule 8-A sub-rule (3) (a) of the TNMMCR introducing tender-cum-auction system was in the interest of mineral development and to ensure transparency and also in the interest of revenue to the State.