Madurai Bench says the probe cannot go on forever

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday ordered the government-appointed special team, probing the alleged irregularities in beach and sand mining in southern districts, to submit a detailed report to the Chief Secretary within a month.

Passing interim orders on a writ petition filed by the Beach Mineral Producers’ Association based in Tirunelveli district, Justice R. Karuppiah directed the Chief Secretary, in turn, to pass consequential orders within two weeks after the filing of the report.

He also ordered that a copy of the report be given to the association.

Earlier, senior counsel M. Ajmal Khan, representing the association, said the government had constituted the team last August to conduct a probe in Tuticorin district alone and directed it to submit a report within a month.

On September 17, the probe was extended to cover Madurai, Tirunelveli, Tiruchi and Kanyakumari districts.

The government also banned beach sand mining until the probe was completed.

“The special team had completed inspection in all mining sites. Yet, the report has not been filed so far. This has happened despite the Principal Seat of the High Court in Chennai having directed it on December 12, 2013 to file the report as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

Special Government Pleader M. Govindan claimed that the inspection was not yet over, and the special team, led by senior IAS officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi, had submitted only a “partial report” to the government in September last.

He said the State government had sought five months to complete the inquiry, while defending a public interest litigation (PIL) petition before the Principal Seat.

“We received a certified copy of the December 12 order only at the end of that month. Therefore, the five months’ time sought by us gets over only on May 30. But the petitioner association has rushed to this court even before that. Further, two other PIL petitions with similar pleas are pending before a Division Bench of this court,” he noted.

Not in agreement with his submissions, Mr. Justice Karuppiah said the inquiry could not be allowed to go on forever.

“Do you mean to say it will go on for two years? Even if you want time, you must state sufficient reasons. But you are unable to say when you will be completing the inquiry,” he said.