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SC suspends Rs 100-cr penalty on Andhra for 'failing' to stop sand mining

Press Trust of India/New Delhi 13 May 19 | 07:11 PM

In a relief to the Andhra Pradesh government, the Supreme Court has suspended the NGT order directing the state to deposit Rs 100 crores with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for inaction to prevent illegal sand mining.

In the interest of natural justice, the apex court allowed the state government to place its perspective before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with regard to illegal sand mining.

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The Andhra Pradesh government has claimed that it was not granted an opportunity to be heard by the green tribunal before the order for depositing Rs 100 crore with CPCB was passed.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta in its recent order said that it is permitting Andhra Pradesh to move an appropriate application before the NGT within two weeks.

"Until the NGT takes a decision, the direction for the interim deposit of Rupees One hundred crores shall remain suspended. We clarify that we have only suspended the direction of the NGT to the above extent. We have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the appeal," the bench said.

Senior advocate A K Ganguli, appearing for Andhra Pradesh submitted that no formal hearing was granted to them by the green tribunal before passing the order.

The bench said that in order to obviate the grievance that there has been a violation of the principles of natural justice, it will be in the interests of justice if an opportunity is granted to the state to place its perspective before the NGT.

The top court requested the green tribunal to consider the application that may be filed by the state and dispose it of preferably within a period of three months.

On April 4, the tribunal while asking the state to deposit Rs 100 crore with the CPCB within a month, directed the chief secretary to forthwith prohibit all unregulated sand mining.

The green panel had said it is the duty of the government to provide complete protection to the natural resources as a trustee of the public at large.

"Even a policy to give free sand as welfare measure cannot justify unregulated mining unmindful of impact on environment. If in the course of mining, damage is caused, the same must be recovered from such violators. Authorities cannot avoid their duty under the environmental law to restore the damage which is a duty to future generations," the panel said.

It had also constituted a committee comprising Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), National Institute of Mines, Dhanbad, IIT Roorkee and Madras School of Economics to undertake environment damage assessment within three months.

The tribunal's direction had come on a plea filed by Andhra Pradesh resident Anumolu Gandhi, alleging that illegal sand mining was causing damage to Krishna, Godavari rivers and their tributaries in the state.

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