The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 companies in Goa in 2015.
The apex court directed the Centre and the Goa government to grant fresh environmental clearances to them.
It said the state government was obliged to grant fresh mining leases in accordance with law, in view of its previous judgment, and not second renewals to mining lease holders.
The apex court had said in previous judgments that only fresh leases were to be granted by the Goa government, not second renewals.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said mining lease holders, who have been granted a second renewal in violation of its previous decision and directions, are granted time to manage their affairs and may continue mining operations till March 15 this year.
"However, they are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018 until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted," the bench said.
"The second renewal of the mining leases granted by the State of Goa was unduly hasty, without taking all relevant material into consideration and ignoring available relevant material and therefore not in the interests of mineral development," it added.
The decision, the bench said, was taken only to augment the revenues of the state, which is outside the purview of Section 8(3) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
"The second renewal of the mining leases granted by the State of Goa is liable to be set aside and is quashed," the bench held.
The apex court also directed the setting up of an SIT and a team of chartered accountants to recover the amount from mining companies, which were allowed to extract ore in violation of the law.
The judgment came on a petition filed by an NGO, Goa Foundation, which had earlier also raised the issue of companies carrying out mining in violation of various statutes.