Sand Mining: State Law Cannot Override Central Law, Says NGT
The National Green Tribunal said on Thursday that state law could not override central rules on sand mining as it rejected the Madhya Pradesh government’s appeal that its district-level environmental committees should be treated as a competent authority for granting authorization for such activity.
A bench headed by NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar refused to change his August 5 order banning illegal sand mining nationwide, as the state government wanted.
The bench said that according to central law, environmental clearance (EC) can only be granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) and the National Environmental Impact Assessment Authority. environment (SEIAA).
In its August 5 order, the court ruled that the removal of sand without the required permission from the MoEF or SEIAA, depending on the area of the mine site, was illegal.
“Environmental clearance (EC) under the central law can only be granted by the MoEF or the SEIAA, depending on the category of the project submitted for review by these authorities.
“The State has no power to alter the system with respect to the granting of EC under the law…Environmental clearance must be granted by the authority specified under the central law” , the court said in its order on Thursday. .
The bench, which is also composed of its judicial member, Judge UD Salvi, further held that the state cannot enact any law that would conflict with the law established by the Center.
“…In no event may the state enact any law that would conflict with or change the very course of the law established by the Center,” he said, adding that “the state would not competent to modify or fully green light said statutory procedure and methodology and assume any authority, designated by it, to grant EC.
Madhya Pradesh has argued that its district-level environmental committees, created by amending its minor minerals rules, are competent to give ECs for sand mining operations in areas smaller than five hectares.
According to the central law, sand mining on land of five hectares or more requires the EC of the MoEF, while permission for lower areas is given by the SEIAA.
Madhya Pradesh had set up district-level environmental committees, changing its rules on minor minerals, to grant EC for sand mining on land under five hectares, saying the expectation of the EC of MoEF or SEIAA causes “serious stagnation” in granting mining. license and thus affects the economy of the state and hinders development projects in that country.
The court rejected the claim saying, “The argument advanced by the state is self-defeating. Strict regulation of mineral mining is needed. Precautions, precautions and preventive measures should be taken to ensure that no environmental degradation takes place.
“The objection that there is stagnation as well as delay in granting the EC is a simple administrative matter.
Inconvenience is normally never grounds for altering the interpretation of a statute or inserting words into a statute.
“The administrative difficulty can be resolved by the MoEF in consultation with the state by creating more SEIAAs at the state level to ensure that applications for environmental clearance for mineral extraction are processed expeditiously,” said the NGT.
Referring to the state government’s assertions in its application, the court also noted that “there have been a large number of cases of illegal mining in the state and huge amounts need to be recovered due fines, charges, etc. This in itself shows that through the granting of leases/mining licenses under its regulations, there has been huge illegal mining with great loss of revenue for the state.
The State in its request had stated, “Madhya Pradesh had detected a total of 3,147 cases of illegal mining between 2008 and 2013 and around 27,732 illegal vehicles carrying material extracted by illegal mining were confiscated during of the said period. An amount of Rs 3,867.67 lakh was levied by the state government as a fine and penalty for the illegal sand mining activities.