New Delhi [India], August 2 (ANI): The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed Himachal Pradesh's top administration officials in connection will the alleged illegal mining at Som Bhadra River (Swan River) in Una District.
A bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel in an order passed on July 30 directed the Chief Secretary and DGP, Himachal Pradesh to hold their in-house brainstorming on the subject with all concerned departments, authorities and set their house in order to uphold the law instead of private interests of law violators.
"They may take stock of the situation and plan further course of action to prevent illegal mining, register criminal cases for offences involved, ensure seizure of vehicles involved in crime, assess and recover compensation for the violations, take action of cancellation of leases for violations, revocation of consents/ECs, criminal prosecution and other steps for protection and restoration of the environment," the NGT directed.
"Colluding officers/authorities may also be identified and made accountable under the environment, criminal and service laws. The first such meeting may be organized within 15 days to take stock of the situation and to plan remedial action. The Chief Secretary and the DGP, HP may remain personally present by Video conferencing with their action taken reports," the NGT ordered.
It further said that it is a matter of surprise that such rampant violations are going on under the nose of all the regulatory authorities - District Magistrate, District Police, Mining Department, Environment Department and Statutory Regulators, including the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Pollution Control Board (PCB).
There is no dearth of power with the said authorities but failure is sought to be covered by pleading inability to handle the situation to remedy violations. Illegal mining is not only theft which is a cognizable offence under the IPC and covered by various offences under Chapter XIV of IPC but also an offence under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Bench further said.
The direction of NGT has come during the hearing of a petition filed by one Amandeep through Advocate Ajay Marwah, which stated that the Central Government has sanctioned 922 Crores for the channelization of Swan River. Channelization work was done by spending huge public funds. But, 'Sand Mafia' having political shelter under the garb of a mining licence, are lifting the sands and other material from the bed of the river in an unscientific manner by using big Pokland and JCB machines, in utter violation of the norms and rules framed for the purpose under the nose and eyes of the local District Administration and government, causing constant danger to the river and to its channelization.
The NGT stated that the State is the trustee for the protection of the environment under the Constitution. Public Trust Doctrine applies. The right to a clean environment is a fundamental right of the citizens. The natural wealth in the form of minerals belongs to the citizens which need to be protected by the State. Unscientific mining has serious and irreversible consequences on rivers and the environment which needs to be checked for giving effect to the 'sustainable development' principle, to which India is committed. Thus, mining has to be done as per plan and in accordance with sustainable mining guidelines issued by the MoEF&CC. (ANI)