The Rajasthan High Court on Monday stayed the mining and transportation of sand throughout the State till November 26, while asking the Director of the Mines Department to take a prompt decision on the environmental clearances for mining lease holders.

A Division Bench of the High Court passed the interim directions on a public interest writ petition moved by an environmental group, Nature Club. The Bench expressed concern over continuing illegal mining in the State despite Supreme Court’s orders. The apex court had issued orders last year for framing of separate rules for granting mining leases for gravel mining. The State government is still following old rules in the matter.

The Bench, comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice J. K. Ranka, noted that the National Green Tribunal had also issued instructions to stop illegal sand mining and had listed the matter for hearing on November 1. The court also asked the State government to submit its plan of action to the tribunal.

The Union Environment Secretary, who was earlier directed to appear in the court and explain the reasons for not framing guidelines for environmental clearance, sought exemption from personal appearance through his counsel.

The court, which had earlier given the State government time till Monday for framing the new rules, refused to extend the period and directed the Director (Mines) to consider the applications of lease holders as early as possible.

In its writ petition moved through counsel Ashok Gaur, the Nature Club had contended that illegal sand mining on the banks of rivers was causing environmental damage and disrupting the course and ecology of rivers. It sought directions for clearance to sand mining strictly in accordance with norms and laws.