Takeover of sand quarrying akin to nationalisation: Govt.

CHENNAI DEC. 4. The First Bench of the Madras High Court today reserved its orders on a batch of petitions challenging the Government move to takeover the sand quarrying operations in the State after terminating all existing leases.

The petitioners contended that the impugned GO, issued on October 1, would nullify various interim orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court, besides reserving the entire State, including the patta lands, for the Government operations.

The Government submitted that its move to takeover sand quarrying operations and cancelling all existing licences was akin to nationalisation process, which required no separate notices to the licensees.

On October 8, shortly after a single judge stayed the operation of the GO, the First Bench admitted an appeal and restrained both the Government agencies and the lease-holders from mining in all the 160 leased sites. It, however, permitted the Government at 79 quarries exclusively owned by it.

Out of the total 239 sites earmarked for quarrying, 160 operate on the strength of either regular leases granted by the Government or court orders permitting them. Of these 160 mines, 32 are situated on private patta lands where the quarrying is done after obtaining bulk permits. The Government has said that 125 of these sites were ecologically fragile and extensive damage to the environment had been noticed in those sites.

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