The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed shock over the disappearance of 31 hills in the Aravalli area of Rajasthan and asked the State government to stop illegal mining in the 115.34-hectare area there within 48 hours.
The top court said that even though Rajasthan was earning royalty of around ₹5,000 crore from mining activities in the Aravallis, it cannot endanger the lives of lakhs of people in Delhi as the disappearance of the hills could be one of the reasons for rise in pollution level in Delhi-NCR.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the status report filed by the Rajasthan government and said it indicated that illegal mining activity was going on in 115.34 hectare area in Aravalli range in the State.
It also referred to a report of the Central Empowered Committee, which had said that out of 128 samples taken by the Forest Survey of India, as many as 31 hills or hillocks had vanished.
“Thirty-one hills or hillocks have disappeared. If hills will disappear in the country, what will happen? Have people become ‘Hanuman’ that they are running away with hills?,” Justice Lokur asked the counsel appearing for Rajasthan.
“Around 15%-20% of hills have vanished in Rajasthan. This is your ground truth. Whom you want to take for a ride?,” the Bench asked, adding that the State has failed to protect the Aravalli range from illegal mining.
The top court said that it was compelled to pass an order to stop illegal mining activities in the area within 48 hours as it appeared that the State has taken the issue “very lightly”.
It directed the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan to file an affidavit regarding compliance of its order within the week and posted the matter for October 29.
The Bench said it was “not at all satisfied” with the contents of the status report filed by the State as it mostly deals with the “so called incompetence” of the FSI.
It said that Rajasthan must appreciate that the FSI was a central body and it would not be proper to make “wild allegations” against it.
During the hearing, the Bench asked the State’s counsel as to what steps have been taken by them to stop illegal mining activity in the Aravallis.
“We have issued show cause notices and FIRs have also been registered (in cases of illegal mining),” the counsel said.
The Bench told the counsel about the importance of having hills and said, “Hills are created by God. There must be some reason if God has done this. They (hills) act as barriers.”
“If you start removing all the hills, pollution from different parts of areas near NCR will come to Delhi. This could be one of the reasons that we have so much pollution in Delhi. For sake of few miners in your State, you are endangering the lives of lakhs of people in Delhi,” the Bench said.