NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court directed the Centre, CBI and five states on Wednesday to respond to a plea which has sought investigation in illegal sand mining cases and termination of leases of entities which are involved in it.
A bench headed by Justice S A Bobde initially asked the petitioner to approach the high court with his grievances but later issued notices to the Centre, CBI and states of Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
The plea has alleged that illegal sand mining across the country has caused damage to the environment and adversely impacted the natural ecological system of the adjoining areas.
During the hearing, the bench told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for petitioner M Alagarsamy, that they should move the high court first.
"We want to have advantage of high court's order so that we can decide it properly," the bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, told Bhushan.
Bhushan said that "environmental havoc" has been created due to illegal sand mining and the authorities concerned have allowed entities to carry out mining without even mandatory environmental plan and clearance.
"This (illegal sand mining) is a rampant problem across the country and it needs to be tackled," Bhushan told the bench.
In his plea filed through advocate Pranav Sachdeva, the petitioner has highlighted the issue of illegal sand mining in rivers and beaches across the country.
The plea claimed that states have onus to regulate sand mining but they have been unable to curb the illegal activities, leading to environmental degradation.
"Due to the lack of implementation of guidelines by the states, various sand mining scams have taken place across different parts of the country," the plea alleged.
It added that the citizens' right to life is being gravely affected as not only is the environment being adversely affected, but even the law and order situation in the country has worsened.
It said the authorities should be directed that no environmental clearance would be accorded to any sand mining project without proper environmental impact assessment (EIA), environmental management plan (EMP) and public consultation as per the EIA notification of 2006.
It also sought a direction that all existing sand mining lease-holders be asked to submit for EIA, EMP, public consultation as per the 2006 notification and no mining allowed until the requisite environmental clearance is obtained after due process.
The plea, which referred to various media reports on illegal sand mining, said the Centre should not grant any environmental clearance for sand mining project without taking into account its cumulative impact in the entire area.
It said those involved in illegal sand mining should be prosecuted, lease of such entities terminated and the CBI should be directed to investigate the alleged sand mining scams as highlighted in the petition.
The plea said that CBI has the jurisdiction to look into illegal sand mining cases across the country.
"Further, the illegal sand mining activities involve the local mafia which also uses arms and weapons to run the racket of illegal sand mining and such illegal operations lead to the loss of around thousands of crores to the public exchequer," it said.
It referred to an earlier verdict delivered by the apex court which had held that leases of minor minerals for an area less than five hectare as well as their renewal was to be granted only after getting environmental clearance.
The plea alleged that non-implementation of sustainable sand mining practices 2016 and lack of an effective policy to curb illegal and indiscriminate sand mining activities has led to the rampant growth of "such illegal, indiscriminate and excessive sand mining activities in the country".
It said that, "illegal sand mining leads to reduction in the level of ground water available which is a violation of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution since right to drinking water is a prerequisite to life.
" "The right to life as set out under Article 21 of the Constitution of India ought to be given the widest possible meaning and would include the right of the future generations to use and enjoy the environment.
Further, indisputably the right to healthy environment is important attribute of right to live with human dignity," the plea said.