SC upholds High Court decision on green clearance for quarries

Noting that uncontrolled quarrying will devastate green zones, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld a Kerala High Court decision that even quarries under five hectares should get prior environmental clearance for issuance of licence.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur held that the court is bound to fulfil its constitutional obligation to protect the environment.

“There are now quarries along roadsides... hundreds of quarries are cleared annually, the impact of all this will be very high,” Chief Justice Thakur observed.

State’s argument

In a hearing on November 26, the State government had argued that the entire construction sector in Kerala would come to an end if such restrictions were imposed on quarries.

The Bench had then made a general comment that the interests of many State governments and quarry owners go hand in hand. The Bench had also told Kerala that other States such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh would also approach the court if it allowed the State’s prayer as regards the impact on the building sector.

The quarry owners had moved the Supreme Court after a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court in December 2015 set aside an amendment brought in to the provisions of the Kerala Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2015, allowing renewal of permits of quarries which had valid licence as on February 2012 without insisting on environmental clearance.

Declaring unreasonable and unconstitutional the amendment, the High Court had held that the formulation of the Kerala Minor Mineral Concession Rules in 2015 did not “wipe out” the provisions in the 2012 notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests which required every quarry and mining operator to obtain environment clearance for undertaking such operations even in less than five hectares.

No exemption

The court pointed out that the Supreme Court in the Deepak Kumar vs State of Haryana case had not exempted quarries operating in less than five hectares from obtaining clearance and that the State government could not contend that the formulation of the 2015 rules had not absolved itself from following the directives in the Deepak Kumar case.

The court ordered that the State government and other statutory authorities should take steps to ensure that no mining operation had been carried out by any permit holder without obtaining environment clearance as contemplated under rule 9 of the Kerala Minor Mineral Concession Rules.

The Bench issued the directives while allowing writ petitions filed by the Nature Lovers’ Forum, Thiruvamkulam, Kochi, and others.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 8:49:17 pm |