Seeking further probe into the issue of illegal mining following the report by Karnataka [ Images ] Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, an interlocutory application has been filed before the Supreme Court.
The application seeks an investigation through the Central Bureau of Investigation or a special investigative team under the supervision of the apex court to probe all aspects of illegal mining in both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Further, the interlocutory application before the court also sought investigation by either of these agencies to probe the collusion of public servants and representatives with the mine owners in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The petitioners, the Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, state that there is large scale illegal mining in the above mentioned states, particularly in the districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur.
"There has been a serious breakdown of governance in Karnataka state on account of the nexus between politician-miners and officials which not only raises serious concerns about ecology and environment, but also on issues concerning transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government," the petitioners noted.
The petitioners brought to the notice of the court that an order had been passed on January 1, 2010 in which the matter was referred to the Central Empowered Committee which in turn filed two reports in which the issue of illegal mining was dealt with in detail.
The petitioners also pointed that the government of Karnataka had made a reference to the Lokayukta of Karnataka, who in turn had put out a report, which was also placed before the court.
Now the Lokayukta has submitted the second part of his report and the petitioners say that this report is a scathing indictment of the entire 'state' machinery- -- forest department, mining and geology department, transportation department, state police etc. -- and encapsulates the systemic collapse that have happened in the region.
The report brings out how the rule of law has ceased to exist under the all pervasive business-political-bureaucratic nexus which has allowed large scale illegal mining in forest areas at highly unsustainable levels, the petitioners noted.
The said Lokayukta report particularly deals with the districts of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga where the Lokayukta and the chief conservator of forests found large-scale illegal mining and violation of lease conditions.
The petitioner further submitted in the application that in the second part of the report, the Lokayukta mentions that no action was taken on the first report as a result of which illegal mining continued to exist.
As a matter of fact, illegalities in mining have increased and there is total failure of supervisory machinery in controlling all the above illegalities/irregularities. The Lokayukta report also brings out the unsustainable nature of the mining in Karnataka.
"It is shocking to note that the most of the leases will be running out of deposit of iron ore in a span of 3 to 12 years. The consent approvals from the MoEF and also the IBM have been increased irrationally without keeping in view the total deposition of the ore in the leases and environmental damages. This unscientific and unsustainable extraction has caused a serious concern," the petitoners also stated while quoting the report.
Further they submitted that the second report of the Lokayukta report also shows in great detail the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Indian Penal Code, Income-Tax Act, Mining laws, Forest Conservation laws have been committed by various entities including top politicians, public servants and big companies.
The Lokayukta has decoded the entire maze of financial transactions, lease deeds, sale deeds, maps, reports of forest department, reports of mining and geology department, encroachments, transport permits, etc. and has brought forth the large-scale violation of laws by various specific entities.
The said reports also names the chief minister, sitting ministers, senior politicians, top public officials and also top companies like Jindal Steel and OMC, state and central public sector units, for committing various kinds of illegalities which are also serious offences. Most of these transactions are absolutely clear instances of quid pro quo amounting to a serious offence under Prevention of Corruption Act.
It is to be noted that CBI is already investigating the mining scandal on the adjacent region of Bellary Reserve Forest which falls in Andhra Pradesh and the same officers can easily investigate the illegalities in Karnataka.
Under these circumstances, when the involvement of CM and top ministers is established, when big companies are involved and situation of systemic collapse is noted, it is extremely essential in the interests of rule of law to launch prosecutions and credible investigations on the basis of the reports of the Lokayukta and also the CEC reports, the petitioners pointed out.
This cannot be done by the state government and the state police which are under the control of the same forces that have allowed this grave situation to develop. Hence it is in the interest of justice that the court orders a CBI or SIT investigation, the petitioners said through their advocate Prashant Bhushan.