HC sets limestone export condition, dismisses PIL

SHILLONG, Nov 24: The High Court of Meghalaya on Thursday disposed of a PIL by directing the state to not allow the export of limestone mined or quarried by persons under a minor mineral licence by obtaining regular end-use certificates from the licensees, verifying the same and presenting annual reports for cross-verification by the office of the accountant-general (AG) under the aegis of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.
The Court said this process will continue for the next 10 years unless interdicted by an express order of a competent court.
“For the state’s conduct in the issuance of a minor mineral licence for limestone used for export thereof, the State will pay damages assessed at Rs 2 crore, which will go towards the purchase of additional equipment for cancer treatment at the specialised unit therefor installed at the Civil Hospital, Shillong,” the Court said.
It further said the AG will audit and verify the purchase of equipment exclusively from the damages awarded and not from the funds that may otherwise be made available by the state to the relevant unit.
Such money has to be put in by the end of January 2023, the court said.
In view of the state’s affidavits indicating that the loopholes upon the introduction of Rule 2(u) in the Rules of 2016 have been plugged, the state was directed to ensure that large-scale limestone “incidentally” extracted is not dealt with without its reference.
The state should indicate by formulating a rule in such regard, specifying a much lower threshold of up to 50 MT of minor mineral being incidentally extracted, but any quantum in excess thereof, even if it is incidentally extracted, would have to be made over to the state, the court said.
“At the end of the day, the state is in the position of a trustee protecting the natural resources of the state in the interest of its people and for their benefit. The rule would apply more strictly in this state almost completely governed by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution where the land and the resources under the land have been recognised to be the property of the tribes and their tribal folk. The state has a duty to ensure the preservation of a precious natural resource for future generations rather than exhaust the entire deposits over one or two Assembly terms,” the court added.
The court said it is laughable that a genuine limestone mining lessee engaged in exporting the mineral would support the state’s cause, as the applicant has purported to do, though obtaining a minor mineral licence costs the licensee much more than obtaining a major mineral licence for the same purpose.

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