Rs 5K-cr dues: Mining firms fault TN show-cause notice

Both G.O.s state that the special team would consist of members from the department of revenue, environment and forest and geology and mining, nominated by the secretaries concerned.
Representational image
Representational imageFile photo

THOOTHUKUDI: Beach sand miners are alleging that the show cause notices issued by the state government to recover the cost and royalty of the minerals under court custody, were on the basis of unsubstantiated documents. The state government had issued show cause notices to 64 heavy mineral mining leaseholders following allegations of illicit mining between 2000-14 and 2014-18, and sought to recover nearly Rs 5,000 crore in total from the defaulters.

According to sources, the show cause notices rely on G.O 156 dated August 8, 2013, G.O 173 dated September 17, 2013, and the reports filed by a special team, headed by senior bureaucrat Gagandeepsingh Bedi, along with four comprehensive reports of Amicus Curiae Dr V Suresh.

Both G.O.s state that the special team would consist of members from the department of revenue, environment and forest and geology and mining, nominated by the secretaries concerned. “But, the team members were handpicked by the officer himself, violating the G.O.,” a mining baron said. RTI replies from the departments have revealed that their secretaries had not issued any orders nominating their officers to assist the Bedi committee, he said.

Moreover, Bedi and his team’s appointments have not been officially gazetted to delegate the powers for the inspection under Section 26(2) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, and the notification was not placed in the Assembly under Section 28(3) of the Act. Sources said the state government had not obtained permission from the high court to conduct a parallel inquiry based on their reports, even as the case is pending.

A miner’s representative told TNIE that the court had appointed Justice VK Sharma to probe into the illegal mining in 2014 in his suit against Bedi’s appointment over personal enmity, but the state obtained a stay to save the officials involved. He also claimed that though he only has 12 mining leases, he has received notices for as many as 35 lease areas in the three districts.

A top official from Tirunelveli told TNIE that some miners sought more documents to respond. “Since a few miners had appealed against the notices over ownership of the lease area due to the partition in the due course of time, it will be examined before the final order for recovery is issued.” Previously, a senior official said the court had not restricted the government to issue proceedings on recovering the penalty.

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