Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday made it clear that if during investigation of cases relating to illegal mining in the Nilgiris district the complicity of any public or government official transpires, the investigating agency should not spare those officials and should proceed against them.

Passing further orders on a writ petition by In Defence of Environment and Animals, represented by its managing trustee, Elephant G.Rajendran, the First Bench consisting of the Chief Justice A.K.Ganguly and Justice F.M.Ibrahim Kalifulla, directed that the contents of certain portions of the report filed by the Additional Director-General of Police, CB CID, Archana Ramasundaram, should be carefully considered and should be borne in mind during investigation.

The report on the progress of investigation in the criminal cases may be filed before the court and if necessary, in a sealed cover, on December 15. The Bench also made it clear that if in the interest of proper investigation, the investigating agency felt that cancellation of bail/anticipatory bail of accused persons was necessary, it was at liberty to make appropriate applications.

Referring to the report submitted by a court-appointed committee headed by the Industries Secretary, M.F.Farooqui, and filed by the Advocate-General, G.Masilamani, the Bench said the committee had identified 115 quarries, of which 47 were operated with lease and the remaining 68 without any lease. It had also assessed the loss to government property and to the ecology on an average basis, but the committee had not been able to completely assess the situation. The committee had said considering the large number of sites which had been identified, apart from those originally listed in the affidavit, the committee wanted to assess the quantum of illicit quarrying and the damage to the government and ecology. For that purpose, it required a team of officers from various departments.

Following a request from the Advocate-General seeking permission to constitute such a committee of experts, the Bench said it was of the view to grant the permission provided the list of proposed officials was filed in the court on the next date of hearing, November 13. After the court granted permission, it would grant further time to the committee to present a full report. The Bench said it was compelled to take the steps as there was “total failure on the part of the administrative machinery in arresting illegal quarrying in The Nilgiris.