ANDHRA PRADESH

HC adjourns petition challenging NGT order on sand mining

Sand is being excavated in adherence to the government policy, counsel for the petitioner tells High Court.  

The petition filed by the owner of a construction and sand mining company in the Andhra Pradesh High Court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on sand mining in Andhra Pradesh has been adjourned until after the summer holidays.

The NGT in the order had asked the Andhra Pradesh government to deposit Rs. 100 crore for the damage done by unregulated sand mining and banned mechanised sand mining.

Justice Kongara Vijaya Lakshmi on Monday heard the arguments of the advocates of the petitioner and the respondents, which included National Green Tribunal (NGT), departments of Industries and Commerce, Irrigation, Mines and Geology and anti-land pooling activist Anumolu Gandhi before adjourning the case.

Counsel for the petitioner Kanneganti Buchaiah said that the government allotted the work of sand mining to the company with strict guidelines, rules and regulations.

His sand mining and construction company would incur huge losses if mining was stopped as per the directive of NGT. The company would have to pay rent for the machine even if mining was not allowed leading to losses, he said.

Defended

Counsel said that sand was being excavated following the Sand Policy of the Government 2016. According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, GoI, “Dredging and de-silting of dams, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, rivers and canals for the purpose of maintenance, upkeep, and disaster Management are exempt from the requirement of obtaining prior environmental clearance”.

The NGT order was therefore “illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional, unwarranted and void” and pleaded with the court to declare it as so.

NGT and Supreme Court advocate and environment law expert Sanjay Upadhyay arguing for the fifth respondent, Anumolu Gandhi, said that those who wanted to challenge the order of a tribunal could do so only in the Supreme Court and not here. He quoted the case of Major General Shri Kant Sharma verses the Union Government case.

He said what the NGT pronounced was just an interim order and there was still scope for the petitioners to appeal to the NGT, implying that there was no need for them (petitionmers) to approach the High Court.

Raising doubts about the “maintainability” of the case, Justice Vijaya Lakshmi adjourned the case to after the court holidays.

Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) Commissioner Cherukuri Sridhar told The Hindu that the authority had not filed a counter to the NGT order in the High Court.