Tamil Nadu

Stop sand quarrying within six months: HC

Sand quarrying under way at Kalloorani near Sivaganga.  

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday allowed import of sand from Malaysia and directed the State government to stop sand quarrying within six months. It has also ruled that no new quarries and mines should be opened in future.

Justice R. Mahadevan observed that the Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals Concession Rules, 1959, and the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage of Minerals and Mineral Dealers Rules, 2011, do not apply to imported sand. Since the importer had paid the customs duty and the appropriate tax (GST) on the consignment, the State had no powers to prevent, seize or take any action in this regard.

A protracted battle for ban
  • Nov. 13, 2013: District collectorate banned quarrying on all riverbeds in Kancheepuram for a year to curb rampant illegal sand mining
  • Nov. 2014: The State government extended the ban for another year
  • Aug. 2015: The prevailing ban was again extended for three more years in Kancheepuram district
  • June, 2017: Mining and Monitoring division, a special projects circle with five divisions, was formed to streamline quarrying
  • June, 2017: Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami launched www.tnsand.in — an online booking facility for sand
  • Aug. 2017: Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court restrained operation of sand quarries between Karur and Tiruchi on the Cauvery river bed
  • Sept. 2017: Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court appoints three-member committee to inspect sand mining and it reported use of unscientific methods of mining at quarrying sites
  • Oct. 14, 2017: Consignment of imported sand from Malaysia reaches V. O. Chidambaranar Port, Thoothukudi. Lorries carrying the imported sand seized for want of valid permit
  • Nov. 2: MRM Ramaiya Enterprises files a petition before Madurai Bench of Madras High Court seeking release of the consignment stating that customs duty and tax (GST) had been paid. Court directs Collectors of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari to file counter petitions
  • Nov. 14: State government argues that the lorries carrying imported sand were seized for want of valid permit
  • Nov. 16: Madurai Bench reserves judgment
  • Nov. 29: Madurai Bench allows sand imported from Malaysia and directs the State to stop all sand mining and quarrying activities within six months

The court further directed quarries of granite and other minerals, except jelly, must be closed periodically to maintain ecological balance. The State shall depute a team of experts from the Geological Department to identify and process the import of sand and minerals from countries which permit export. The government shall take a decision on the import of river sand by State-owned corporations to bridge the shortfall in supply, the court observed.

The State, however, was at liberty to bring in enactments or amendments with regard to the regulation and handling of such imported sand, the court observed. It directed the State to establish permanent check-posts to curb and prevent illegal mining and transportation of sand. The officials at the check-post shall maintain a record of the vehicles passing through and CCTV cameras must be installed at the check-posts, which shall be connected to a common server.

Panel to ascertain loss

The judge directed the government to take appropriate action immediately against persons involved in illegal mining, transportation and storage in the State by confiscating and cancelling the registration certificate of the vehicles involved. The State shall constitute a committee to ascertain the loss caused to the government as a result of illegal mining and take steps to recover the loss. Appropriate action against the companies shall be initiated and the erring government officials should be suspended and action taken. The court directed that a proper record should be maintained of the imported sand, its quality, amount sold and the remaining stock. The records shall be placed before the Mines and Commercial Taxes Department to check tax evasion. The imported sand must be tested for clearance, and in case a quality certificate is not produced by the importer, then appropriate scientific methods can be deployed for the same.

The case pertains to import of sand by M.RM. Ramaiya Enterprises from Malaysia.

The lorries hired for transporting the sand were initially seized by the police in Thoothukudi and later detained at the Thoothukudi Port. Around 50,000 metric tonnes of Malaysian sand are lying in the VOC Port for clearance. In the interim order passed, the court had directed not to collect any charges from the importer.

Leaders React:

My government streamlined sand quarrying and sales by introducing the online system due to which illegal sand mining had been prevented — Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Chief Minister

I welcome the HC order. The government should immediately import sand to ensure that the construction industry does not grind to a halt — G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of CPI (M)

The court has cracked the whip on the sand mining mafia which has destroyed our rivers, caused massive reduction of water table — M.H. Jawahirullah, MMK president

Do they have the political will to implement the court order? Despite clearly laid down rules, the Tamil Nadu government had turned a blind eye to illegal sand mining — Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK youth wing leader

We should protect our rivers and stop theft of river sand. However, the government should decide what the alternative to sand is — Tamilisai Soundararajan, BJP’s State unit president

Illegal sand mining has destroyed the riverbeds and caused depletion of groundwater. It will be against people’s interests if the government went on appeal against the order — Vaiko, MDMK general secretary


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 1:21:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/stop-sand-quarrying-within-six-months-hc/article21135704.ece

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