Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Expressing serious concern over large-scale ecological degradation, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered suspension of all mining activities in the 448 sq. km. area of the Aravalli Hill range falling in Haryana’s districts of Faridabad and Gurgaon including Mewat.

A three-judge Forest Bench of the Court comprising Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S. H. Kapadia said: “Time has now come to suspend mining in the above area till statutory provisions for restoration and reclamation are duly complied with, particularly in cases where pits/quarries have been left abandoned. Environment and ecology are national assets. They are subject to inter-generational equity.” The Bench made it clear that the reclamation plan must indicate the steps needed to be taken to rehabilitate (including reclamation), followed by status reports on steps taken by the authorities pursuant to the plan.

“Time has now come,” the Bench said, “to suspend all mining in the above area on Sustainable Development Principle which is part of Articles 21, 48A and 51A (g) of the Constitution. In fact, these Articles have been extensively discussed in the judgment in M. C. Mehta’s case which keeps the option of imposing a ban in future open.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Kapadia said, “Over the years, this Court tried to balance mining operations vis-a-vis environmental protection. Even after noticing non-compliance of Rules as far back as 2004, this Court, after sounding a warning to the existing mines to comply with the Rules, did not suggest a complete ban on mining operations so long as it was possible to undertake such operations on the principles of sustainable development. However, the position did not improve. The position worsened. The result is that mining operations have been carried out on a disproportionate scale in the Aravalli Hill mainly in Gurgaon and Faridabad including Mewat in the State of Haryana.”

“Satellite images indicate the devastation caused to the area by the extensive mining operations,” the Bench said, adding, “Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary remedies. In the circumstances, we are of the view that mining operations should be immediately suspended in the above area.”

“The question still remains as to whether we should grant permission to the State of Haryana to excavate minor minerals from a localised area of 600 hectares out of 448 sq. km. (approximately) for purposes of excavating construction material which is needed for construction of houses, sports,” the Bench said.

More In: Today's Paper