The Supreme Court said that states should not fear if a matter is pending before it. “We are not a tiger or something. We are not man-eating tigers. They should not have fear,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
The court’s observation came when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Trimex Group, argued that a petition filed against the company, alleging illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh, was aimed at pressuring the state government.
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The counsel for Andhra Pradesh placed on record a recent order passed by the state government suspending mining operations by the private firm.
Rohatgi said this was not a case of illegal mining and the state has taken this decision as the top court was hearing the matter.
“The petition has been filed to force the state to take a call. There is no case at all to say that it is illegal. We have to challenge it,” Rohatgi said.
When he claimed that the state government’s order has made the “attempt” by the petitioner “successful”, the bench observed “a state government is not such helpless that one or two persons can coerce them.”
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Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner and former senior bureaucrat EAS Sarma, said the state has only ordered suspension of the licence, but they should cancel it and recover the money from the company.
It posted the matter for further hearing on September 27.
On July 9, the Supreme Court had sought the reply of the Centre, Andhra Pradesh and the firm on the petition seeking a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) or a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged illegal mining being carried out by Trimex Group in the state.
Sarma, a former secretary to the Union government, has alleged in his plea that the group was involved in illegal and unlawful activities, including mining and export of various minerals such as Monazite which is a prescribed substance as per the notifications issued under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
Claiming that such illegal mining has destroyed the environment and tree cover of the region, the plea has sought termination of the group’s mining licence for violating various laws and sought a probe into the alleged illegal mining in the area.
It has also demanded a direction to the authorities to recover from the company the allegedly illegally accumulated wealth through illegal mining and related activities and launching of prosecutions under sections of the 1957 Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
The money recovered should be used for the restoration of the environment, the plea has sought.
(With PTI inputs)