Tamil Nadu

Sand mining case kicks up dust

A view of the Madras High Court in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

The Madras High Court on Thursday witnessed utter chaos as the counsel for a couple of beach mineral exporters, the Centre, the State government and an amicus curiae appointed by the court were at loggerheads over the issue of the entire industry having come to a grinding halt due to multiple cases pending in the court.

When a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee heard the case through video conferencing since the senior judge was in the Madurai Bench of the High Court, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan and advocate Srinath Sridevan, representing V.V. Minerals, insisted on permitting export of quarried mineral for which royalty had already been paid.

Senior counsel N.L. Rajah, representing another exporter, also echoed similar sentiments and said the State government could not continue with the blanket ban without any end in sight especially when the exporters had taken huge amount of loans from various financial institutions and hundreds of workers dependant on the industry too had been rendered jobless.

Amicus curiae objects

However, amicus curiae V. Suresh objected to their plea for permitting exports until the ongoing probe by IAS officer Satyabrata Sahoo, with respect to the content of monazite in the quarried mineral, was completed. He claimed that around 86 lakh tonnes out of 1.51 crore tonnes of mineral, lying in the godowns of the beach sand exporters, had been mined illegally.

When the judges wanted to know the stage of the probe by Mr. Sahoo, a Central government standing counsel said the Atomic Minerals Directorate in Hyderabad had analysed the mineral samples sent to it by the IAS officer and forwarded a comprehensive report, on the analysis carried out by it, to him on March 12.

However, Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian told the court that Mr. Sahoo had sought two reports but he had so far received only one. He said 67 samples of the minerals were sent for chemical analysis and another batch of 43 ‘super check’ samples were sent for mineralogical analysis.

The AMD had forwarded a report on March 12 only with respect to chemical analysis of the first batch of 67 samples and it was received by the IAS officer on March 19. The report with respect to the second batch was still awaited, he claimed. However, the Central government standing counsel disputed the claim and contended that the entire report had been submitted.

The contradiction forced, Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan, to remark, in a lighter vein, that this was possibly the only issue on which the State and the Centre did not agree with each other. Thereafter, since the AAG sought four weeks’ time for Mr. Sahoo to file a report on the basis of the conclusions arrived at by the AMD, the judges adjourned further hearing to April 18.

Though the counsel for mineral exporters sought an interim order permitting them to carry on with their business in the meantime, the judges refused to pass such an order and asked them to prepare a synopsis of the cases along with a timeline in order to enable the court to commence final hearing at the earliest.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 5:25:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sand-mining-case-kicks-up-dust/article23326765.ece

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