“They knew what was happening. If you (state government) have bonafide intentions, then don’t you think that some regulatory mechanism should have been in place. It was not there,” the forest bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik said.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the BJP-ruled state government, said, “We came to power in March, 2012, and besides existing laws such as the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act) and the Wild Life Act, we have prepared a comprehensive mining policy draft to regulate mining.”
The bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla, said the private firms would “go for the money as they are not there for charity”, but there should be some regulatory mechanism in place.
The counsel, appearing for Goa and its pollution control board, started his arguments with the submission that the PIL be dismissed on various grounds including that “factual positions” about the actions taken by the state to curb illegal mining has been concealed by NGO Goa Foundation, which has filed the PIL, from the court.
“These technical pleas will not work as the constitutional issue of Article 21 (right to life) and the public interest are involved,” the bench said.
“Goa has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal mining and it suspended the mining operations on September 10, 2012, three days after the report of Justice M B Shah Commission was tabled in the Parliament,” the lawyer said and referred to the state government’s affidavit that accused the previous regime of illegal iron ore extraction in the state.
The bench is hearing the PIL filed by Goa Foundation, an environmental action group, on illegal mining in Goa.
The court also asked whether Goa has determined the carrying capacity and would want to undertake caping of iron ore production. The court stressed the need for an expert body that can determine the carrying capacity for sustainable mining.
During the hearing, the counsel for Goa, said as many as 461 traders’ licenses, involved with iron ore trading, were cancelled pursuant to the report of Justice Shah panel and later only 47 persons were issued it afresh among 200 applicants.
The hearing in the case will continue tomorrow. The apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had said that nearly 70 iron ore mines in Goa fall within the prohibited 10km radius of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and environment clearance certificates of miners must be reviewed.