Refusing to renew the lease for blue metal quarrying operations

The Madras High Court has upheld an order of the State government refusing to renew the lease for blue metal quarrying operations in Tiruneermalai in Kancheepuram district.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and N. Paul Vasanthakumar, passed the order on petitions by A. Kumar and three others who sought to restrain the Kancheepuram District Collector from in any way interfering with the petitioners' right to continue blue metal quarrying in the village.

Dismissing the petitions, the court directed the petitioners to vacate the premises, remove all their machinery and other equipment and hand over the vacant possession of the quarries to the authorities within three weeks.

The lease period had come to an end, and when the petitioners had applied for renewal, the government declined to grant the same. The petitioners case was that though the lease deeds had been executed in February 2003 (in one case in September 2003), and they had to do preliminary works, they could not commence the quarrying operations and in the process substantial time had elapsed.

The Bench said when a statute occupied the field, the principles of equity and promissory estoppel had no role to play. In the cases on hand, the Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals Concession Rules occupied the entire field. Rule 8 (8) clearly distinguished the rights of lease holders in respect of virgin lands and old lands.

As per rule 8 (8) (ii), “the lease should expire on the date specified in the lease deed and in no case extension of the period of lease should be made.” When there was a specific bar created under law for such extension of the lease period, the petitioners prayer could not be appreciated.

The Bench said it was submitted by petitioners that if the court allowed their writ petitions, extending their lease periods, they were ready to offer more lease amounts. But it was the State's stand that if the lease rights were auctioned, it would fetch more revenue. The court said it was in total conformity with the submissions made by the State in this respect.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National