Dhruva Enterprises vs C. Srinivasulu on 15 September, 2021


Try out our Premium Member services: Virtual Legal Assistant, Query Alert Service and an ad-free experience. Free for one month and pay only if you like it.

Supreme Court of India

Dhruva Enterprises vs C. Srinivasulu on 15 September, 2021

Author: B.R. Gavai

                                           NON­REPORTABLE

             IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
             CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


              CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3776 OF 2020

DHRUVA ENTERPRISES                            ...APPELLANT(S)

                           VERSUS


C. SRINIVASULU AND OTHERS                  ...RESPONDENT(S)




                        JUDGMENT

B.R. GAVAI, J.

1. The appellant has approached this Court being aggrieved

by the impugned judgment and order dated 17 th January 2020,

passed by the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi,

thereby allowing the appeal filed by respondent Nos. 1 to 3 and

directing the Ministry of Environment & Forest and Climate

Change to conduct Environment Impact Assessment Appraisal

in terms of EIA Notification 2006, and subsequent amendments

1
thereunder and also to conduct public hearing and impose

whatever conditions they may find necessary and appropriate

for carrying out mining operation. By the impugned judgment

and order, the Tribunal has further directed suspension of the

mining operations until the completion of the said exercise.

2. Facts in brief giving rise to filing of the present appeal are

as under:­

The appellant had applied on 28 th July 2016 for Mining

Lease for Quartz and Feldspar mining over 29 hectares of land

in Sy. No. 330/1, Kalwakole Village, Peddakothapally Mandal,

Mahabubnagar District, State of Telangana. The total land in

the said survey number was 109 Acres and 08 Guntas

(approximately 44 hectares), out of which the appellant had

applied for 29 hectares. In the application submitted by the

appellant, it was stated that the nearest human habitation was

Yenambetla, existing at a distance of about 1.6 km from the

applied area. It was further stated in the application that the

2
nearest water body was at a distance of 0.25 km named as

Singotham Lake.

3. The application of the appellant was processed at various

stages including the Revenue Divisional Officer (hereinafter

referred to as the “RDO”), Nagarkurnool, Assistant Director of

Mines and Geology, Mahabubnagar and Director of Mines and

Geology, Hyderabad, Government of Telangana. Vide

communication dated 7th September 2016, the Director of

Mines and Geology, Hyderabad, Government of Telangana

informed the appellant that after careful examination of the

proposal submitted by the appellant, the Assistant Director of

Mines and Geology, Mahabubnagar had recommended for grant

of Quarry Lease in favour of the appellant for Quartz and

Feldspar over an area of 24 hectares in Sy. No. 330/1,

Kalwakole Village, Peddakothapally Mandal, Mahabubnagar

District, Telangana. The appellant was directed to submit a

Mining Plan approved by Joint Director of Mines and Geology,

Hyderabad for the proposed area within a period of six months

3
from the date of the said communication. The appellant was

directed to submit Consent from the Telangana State Pollution

Control Board and also Environmental Clearance (hereinafter

referred to as “EC”) from the Ministry of Environment & Forest

(hereinafter referred to as the “MoEF”) as per the Environment

Impact Assessment Notification (hereinafter referred to as the

“EIA Notification 2006) dated 14 th September 2006 and 15th

January 2016. It was also stated in the said communication

that if the appellant fails to submit the Approved Mining Plan

within the stipulated period, it will be presumed that the

appellant was not interested in getting the Quarry Lease for the

said area and further course of action will be initiated in

accordance with law. Thereafter, the State Environment Impact

Assessment Authority, Telangana (hereinafter referred to as the

“SEIAA”) examined the said proposal in accordance with EIA

Notification 2006 and the subsequent amendments thereof and

exempted the same from the process of public hearing as the

mining lease area was less than 25 hectares. The SEIAA

4
accorded EC on 11th April 2017, with specific and general

conditions.

4. Challenging the same, the respondent Nos. 1 to 3 filed an

appeal under Section 16 read with Section 18(1) and Section 15

of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (hereinafter referred to

as the “said Act”) before the National Green Tribunal, Southern

Zone, Chennai being Appeal No. 582 of 2017 (SZ), which was

transferred to National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New

Delhi (hereinafter referred to as the “Tribunal”) being Appeal

No. 24 of 2018, wherein a two­fold challenge was made by the

respondent Nos. 1 to 3: first, that the area was reduced from 29

hectares to 24 hectares only in order to avoid the rigours of

public hearing and second, that the Singotham Lake was in

close proximity of the proposed mining area and as such, the

EC granted, was not correct in law.

5. In the said proceedings, the learned Tribunal had passed

an interim order on 24th April 2018, thereby staying the order

challenged in the appeal. Being aggrieved thereby, the

5
appellant had approached this Court being Civil Appeal No.

8130 of 2019. This Court vide its order dated 8 th November

2019, requested the learned Tribunal to hear the matter on 22 nd

November 2019. Accordingly, the learned Tribunal after

hearing the counsel for the parties, found favour with both the

grounds raised by respondent Nos. 1 to 3 and allowed the

appeal by passing the order as aforesaid. Being aggrieved

thereby, the appellant has approached this Court.

6. We have heard Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, learned Senior

Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant, Mr. Sandeep

Singh, learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent Nos.

1 to 3, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, learned ASG appearing on behalf

of respondent No.4­Union of India and Mr. Dhananjay Baijal,

learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent No.9­State

Pollution Control Board, Telangana.

7. Mr. Viswanathan, learned Senior Counsel submitted that

the learned Tribunal has grossly erred in coming to the

conclusion that the area was reduced by the appellant from 29

6
hectares to 24 hectares only in order to avoid the rigours of

public hearing. He submitted that the appellant had no role to

play in such a reduction. As a matter of fact, the appellant had

applied for an area admeasuring 29 hectares. It was only the

authorities which had reduced the area. He further submitted

that the ground with regard to Singotham Lake being in the

close proximity to the proposed mining area, is also totally

erroneous. The learned Senior Counsel, relying on the Google

Maps as well as photographs, would submit that the distance

between the proposed mining area and the Singotham Lake is

0.25 km. It is therefore submitted that the said distance is in

accordance with the requirements of law.

8. Mr. Viswanathan took us through various documents to

show that while granting EC, the entire procedure required to

be followed under EIA Notification 2006 was followed. The

proposal underwent scrutiny at various stages and only

thereafter, the SEIAA had granted EC in favour of the appellant.

7

9. Mr. Sandeep Singh, learned counsel appearing on behalf

of respondent Nos.1 to 3 submitted that if the distance between

the proposed mining area and the water body is more than 0.25

km, the said respondents would not have any objection of

permitting mining activities. The learned counsel for the State

as well as the State Pollution Control Board also supported the

case of the appellant.

10. In view of the concession granted by respondent Nos. 1 to

3, we could have very well disposed of the appeal. However,

since the issue involved is with regard to environment, we have

considered the appeal on merits.

11. As per the guidelines framed by the Government of

Telangana dated 19th January 2015, for land admeasuring

between 15 hectares to 30 hectares, the competent authority,

for issue of ‘No Objection Certificate’ (hereinafter referred to as

the “NOC”), for Mining Lease and Quarry Lease in respect of

Government/Patta Lands, is with the RDO/Sub­Collector. After

the application was made by the appellant for grant of Mining

8
Lease, a letter was addressed by the Assistant Director of Mines

and Geology, Mahabubnagar to RDO, Nagarkurnool,

Mahabubnagar on 28th July 2016. Vide the said letter, the

RDO was instructed to consider the following aspects while

issuing NOC:­

1. “Extent of Land.

2. Classification of Land.

3. Proximity to Forest, Tank, Lake or Irrigation
Source.

4. Proximity to habitation.

5. Whether mining will affect habitation.

6. Whether mining will affect agriculture in
neighbouring lands.”

12. The RDO was required to submit its report within 30 days

from the date of receipt of the said letter. It further appears

that on 6th August 2016, the Tahsildar, Peddakothapally, after

personally inspecting the site along with the Assistant Revenue

Inspector, Peddakothapally, submitted its report to RDO. The

relevant part of the said report reads thus:­
“In view of the above myself and ARI of
Peddakothapally Mandal have been proceeded to
the Sy No. 330/1, and found that the said land Sy
No. 330/1 of Kalwakole is a Govt. land (P.P) covered
by hillrock to an extent of Ac 109.08 gts and there
is no objection for allotting the said part of land to

9
M/s Dhruva Enterprises. Further submitted that
the Mandal surveyor has been prepared sketch and
the extract of Khasra 1954­55, pahani for the year
2015­16 and same are enclosed herewith. The
detailed report is as follows:­

1. Extent of Land : AC 109.08
gts.

2. Classification of Land        :   Govt.    Land
                                     (P.P)
3. Proximity to Forest, Tank,    :   The canal is
   Lake of Irrigation Source         situated 1.00
                                     Km for away
                                     from the said
                                     Sy. No.
4. Proximity to habitation       :   There is no
                                     habitation
                                     nearby.
5. Whether mining will affect    :   Not affected
   habitation                        to         the
                                     habitation
6. Whether mining will affect    :   No,       not
   agriculture             in        affecting   to
   neighbouring lands                the
                                     Agriculture
                                     lands

I, therefore, request you to kindly lease may be
granted in favour of M/s Dhruva Enterprises, rep by
S. Venkateshwar Rao over the Sy No. 330/1 an
extent 109.08 gts situated within the limits of
Peddakothapally mandal is feasible to lease the
land.”

10

13. After the report of the Tahsildar was received, the RDO,

Nagarkurnool granted ‘NOC’ vide communication dated 8 th

August 2016. The relevant part of the said communication

reads thus:­

“In this regard, the Tahsildar Peddakothapally has
reported that the Sy. No. 330/1, and found that the
said land Sy. No. 330/1 of Kalwakole is a
Government land (P.P) covered by hillrock to an
extent of Ac. 109.08 gts and there is no objection for
allotting the said part of land to M/s Dhruva
Enterprises. Further, it is submitted that the
Mandal Surveyor has been prepared sketch and the
extract of Khasra 1954­55, Pahani for the year
2015­16 and same are enclosed here with. The
detailed report is as follows:

      1.Extent of Land                  :   Ac.    109.08
                                            gts.
     2. Classification of Land          :   Government
                                            Land (P.P)
     3. Proximity to Forest, Tank,      :   The canal is
        Lake of Irrigation Source           situated 1.00
                                            KM for away
                                            from the said
                                            Sy. No.
     4. Proximity to habitation         :   There is no
                                            habitation
                                            near by, but
                                            existing     1
                                            KM away.
     5. Whether mining will affect      :   Not affected
        habitation                          to         the


                                 11
                                            habitation
     6. Whether mining will affect     :    No,
        agriculture             in          agriculture
        neighbouring lands                  lands      are
                                            existing 500
                                            Mts.    Away
                                            from the site.

Therefore, the Assistant Director of Mines &
Geology, Mahaboobnagar is requested to grant lease
permission in favour of M/s Dhruva Enterprises,
rep. by S. Venkateshwar Rao over the above Sy. No.
to an extent of Ac. 109.08 gts situated within the
limits of Kalwakole Village of Peddakothapally
Mandal as per rules.”

14. Vide communication dated 7th September 2016, the

Director of Mines and Geology, Hyderabad, Government of

Telangana granted ‘in­principle’ approval for a Quarry Lease for

Quartz and Feldspar over an extent of 24 hectares. While doing

so, the Director of Mines and Geology, Hyderabad directed the

appellant to submit a Mining Plan approved by the Joint

Director of Mines and Geology, Hyderabad, Government of

Telangana within six months from the date of issue of the

notice. It was also directed to submit the Consent from the

State Pollution Control Board, Telangana and EC from MoEF,

as per EIA Notification 2006 and subsequent amendments

12
thereof. The relevant part of the said communication reads

thus:­
“After careful examination of the proposals of
the Asst. Director of Mines & Geology,
Mahabubnagar in principle, it has been decided to
grant a Quarry Lease for Quartz and Feldspar over
an extent of 24.00 Hect. in Sy. No. 330/1 of
Kalwakole Village, Peddakothapally Mandal,
Mahabubnagar District in favour of M/s Dhruva
Enterprises, Rep: by Sri S. Venkateshwar Rao for a
period of 20 years subject to submission of
Approved Mining Plan within a period of (6) months
from the date of issue of this notice as per Rule
12(5)(c) of T.S. Minor Mineral Concession Rules,
1966 alongwith CFE from ESPCB and
Environmental Clearance from MoEF.

However, the approved mining plan shall also
reflect the restriction to be adopted by the applicant
while conducting quarry operations due to the
existence of structures, like temples railway line,
roads, water bodies such as river, lake etc., and the
stipulated distances as per the various Regulations
prescribed under Mines & Metalliferous
Regulations, 1961. The safety measures to be taken
are also to be incorporated.

In view of the above, M/s. Dhruva Enterprises,
Rep: by Sri S. Venkateshwar Rao is hereby
requested to submit Mining Plan approved by Joint
Director of Mines & Geology, Hyderabad for the
proposed precise area within a period of (6) months
from the date of issue of this notice and also along
with the Consent for Establishment from T.S.
Pollution Control Board and Environmental
Clearance from Ministry of Environment and

13
Forests as per Environment Impact Assessment
Notification through S.O. 1533, dt: 14.09.2006 read
with S.O. No. 141(E), dated 15.01.2016 to consider
for grant of Quarry lease for Quartz and Feldspar in
the subject area. If the applicant fails to submit the
Approved Mining Plan within the stipulated period,
it will be presumed that the applicant is not
interested in getting the Quarry lease over the
subject area and further course of action will be
initiated as per Rules. A copy of the Surveyed
sketch showing the precise area of 24.00 Hect. in
Sy. No. 330/1 proposed for grant of Quarry Lease
for Quartz and Feldspar in the subject area in
favour of the applicant is enclosed herewith.”

15. Accordingly, the appellant submitted a detailed Mining

Plan on 20th October 2016. The relevant part of the said Mining

Plan reads thus:­

“(ii) Infrastructure and Communication:

Water: Sufficient quantity of drinking water is
available in the nearby villages from bore wells and
opens wells.

Electricity: Electricity is available at a distance of
about 800 m from the applied lease area.

Rail Head: The nearest Railway station is
Mahabubnagar about 100 Km from the applied
Lease area.

14
River Head: No river a located in the vicinity of the
Lease area. Singotam Lake is located at a distance
of about 250 m from the applied area. Numerous
tanks and bore wells constitute the main source of
water in the area.

Communication: Telephonic Communication, Post
Office, Bank, is available in Kalwakole and
Peddakothapally.

Road: Road to the quarry is accessible throughout
the year. Four­wheelers, two­wheelers, buses and
autos ply on the road.”

16. In the meeting held on 30th December 2016 of the State

Expert Appraisal Committee (hereinafter referred to as the

“SEAC”), the proposal of the appellant came to be considered.

The relevant part of the said Minutes of the Meeting reads

thus:­

Agenda 24.00 Ha. Quartz and Feldspar Mine of
Item: M/s. Dhruva Enterprises, Sy. Nos.

     01        330/1, Kalwakole (V), Peddakothapally
               (M),   Mahabubnagar        District –
               Environmental Clearance – Reg.

The representative of the project propone Sri Dr. S.
Venkateshwar Rao; and Sri M. Venkatesh of M/s.
Global Enviro Labs & Consultants, Hyderabad
attended and made a presentation before the SEAC.
It is noted that the mine lease area is 24.00 Ha.
which is less than 25.0 Ha. The project is

15
considered under B1 Category as per the guidelines
of the MoEF & CC, GoI. The proponent submitted
Approved Mining Plan & EMP report.

It is noted from the Notice dt. 07.09.2016 of DMG,
Hyderabad that the proponent obtained in principle
grant of quarry lease for a period of 20 years. It is
further noted that the quarry lease is not granted
prior to 09.09.2013. hence, it has to be ascertained
whether any other Mines are located surrounding
500m as Cluster, as per S.O. 2269(E), dt.

01.07.2016 issued by the MoEF & CC, GoI.

The proponent stated that there are no mining
activities existing within 500m from the periphery of
project.

The nearest village to the proposed site is
Yenambetla (V) which is existing at a distance of 1.6
Km and Singotham Lake exists at a distance of 0.25
Km from the boundary of the site.”

17. After a detailed discussion, the project was recommended

for grant of EC. Thereafter, the SEIAA, in its meeting held on

11th April 2017, considered the said proposal and granted EC to

the project of the appellant. The relevant part of the said

Minutes of the Meeting reads thus:­

“I. This has reference to your application submitted
online on 14.11.2016 (proposal No.
SIA/TG/MIN/60426/2016) received on 23.11.2016,
seeking Environment Clearance for the proposed
Quartz & Feldspar Mine in favour of M/s. Dhruva
Enterprises, Sy. Nos. 330/1, Kalwakole (V),

16
Peddakothapally (M), Mahabubnagar District. It
was reported that the nearest human habitation
viz., Yenambetla (V) exists at a distance of about 1.6
Km from the mine lease area. It was also reported
that Singotham Lake which is existing at a distance
of 0.25 Km from the mine lease area. It was noted
that the capital investment of the project is Rs. 2.1
Crores and maximum capacity of the project is as
follows:

Mining of Quartz – 4,05,842 TPA
II. It is a semi­mechanized opencast quarry. The
Blocks are cut by using jack hammer drilling,
wedge­cutting and excavation. The separated
blocks are dressed manually. It is reported that the
life of the Mine is estimated as 18 years. The total
mine lease area is 24.00 Ha.

III. The proposal has been examined and processed
in accordance with EIA Notification, 2006 and its
amendments thereof. The State Level Expert
Appraisal Committee (SEAC) examined the
application, in its meeting held on 30.12.2016 &
22.02.2017. The project is considered under B2
category and exempted from the process of public
hearing as the mining lease area is less than 25
Ha., as per provisions laid under EIA Notification,
2006 & its subsequent amendments. Based on the
information furnished, presentation made by the
proponent and the consultant M/s. Global Enviro
Labs, Hyderabad; In­principle grant of quarry lease
by the DMG, Hyderabad Notice Dt. 07.09.2016 for a
period of 20 years; Approved Mining Plan; Lr. dt.
12.01.2017 of ADMG: Nagarkurnol informing that
there are no mines surrounding 500 mtrs as
Cluster, the Committee considered the project and
recommended for issue of EC. The State Level

17
Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA),
in its meeting held on 14.03.2017 & 18.03.2017
examined the proposal and recommendations of
SEAC, Telangana for issue of Environmental
Clearance. Accordingly, after discussions in the
matter and considering the recommendations of the
SEAC, Telangana, the SEIAA, Telangana hereby
accords prior Environmental Clearance to the
project as mentioned at Para no. I under the
provisions of EIA Notification 2006 and its
subsequent amendments issued under
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 subject to
implementation of the following specific and general
conditions.”

18. Thereafter, vide order dated 22 nd April 2017, the

Government of Telangana granted Quarry Lease for Quartz over

an extent of 24.00 hectares in Sy. No. 330/1 of Kalwakole

Village, Peddakothapally Mandal, Nagarkurnool (erstwhile

Mahabubnagar) District in favour of the appellant.

19. A perusal of the aforesaid documents would reveal that

the appellant, in fact, had applied for grant of Mining Lease for

29 hectares. It is, however, the authorities including the

Tahsildar, the RDO, Assistant Director of Mining and Geology,

Mahabubnagar, who had recommended grant of Quarry Lease

18
over 24 hectares. Insofar as the water body is concerned, the

appellant, in his application as well as Mining Plan, has clearly

mentioned that Singotham Lake is situated at a distance of

0.25 km. While processing the proposal of the appellant, the

Tahsildar and the Assistant Revenue Inspector of the concerned

area have physically carried out the inspection. Not only that,

the Assistant Director of Mines and Geology had personally

inspected the area on 11 th August 2016, and the Surveyor had

surveyed the applied area with the help of a GPS instrument. It

is also revealed from the record that the area of 24 hectares in

Sy. No. 330/1, which consists a larger area, was earmarked

after leaving the safety distance of 0.25 km from Singotham

Lake. In its report, the Surveyor had also reported that the

demarcated area was not overlapping with the existing leases

and there were no pending applications in that area.

20. It could thus be seen that prior to grant of ‘in­principle’

approval by the Director of Mines and Geology, Hyderabad,

Government of Telangana, the proposed area was physically

19
inspected by the Tahsildar along with the Assistant Revenue

Inspector. The Assistant Director of Mines and Geology,

Mahabubnagar had independently inspected the area. The

area was surveyed by the Official Surveyor with the GPS

instrument and while earmarking the area, the distance of 0.25

km was also maintained.

21. After ‘in­principle’ approval was granted, the appellant

submitted its Mining Plan on 20 th October 2016. The proposal

of the appellant was thereafter considered by the SEAC on 30 th

December 2016, wherein it was resolved to recommend the

proposal of the appellant for grant of EC. Thereafter, the

SEIAA, in its meeting dated 11h April 2017, has granted its EC

after considering all the aspects. Thereafter, Quarry Lease has

been granted in favour of the appellant on 22nd April 2017.

22. It could thus be seen that the proposal of the appellant

has undergone scrutiny at various stages. Only after it was

found that it was in conformity with the provisions of law, the

‘in­principle’ approval and EC for Quarry Lease had been

20
granted. Thereafter, the appellant has submitted his Mining

Plan which was again duly examined by various authorities.

The proposal of the appellant was initially considered by SEAC

and recommended for grant of EC. Thereafter, SEIAA, after

considering all the aspects has granted EC to the project of the

appellant. Only thereafter, the Quarry Lease had been granted

in favour of the appellant.

23. Insofar as the finding of the learned Tribunal that the area

was reduced to 24 hectares from 29 hectares only in order to

avoid the rigours of public hearing, is totally erroneous. The

appellant had no role to play in the same. It is the authorities

who recommended approval in respect of only 24 hectares.

Insofar as the mandatory distance from the water body is

concerned, the authorities upon survey had found that the

mandatory distance of 0.25 km is maintained.

24. In this view of matter, we find that the learned Tribunal

has grossly erred in arriving at a finding that the appellant had

reduced the area to 24 hectares only in order to avoid the

21
rigours of public hearing and further that there was no distance

of 0.25 km between the proposed mining area and the

Singotham Lake.

25. In the result, the appeal succeeds and the impugned

judgment and order dated 17th January 2020, passed by the

learned Tribunal is quashed and set aside. No costs.

…..…..……………………..J.

[L. NAGESWARA RAO]

………………………….J.

[B.R. GAVAI]

..…..……………………..J.

[B.V. NAGARATHNA]

NEW DELHI;

SEPTEMBER 15, 2021.

22



Source link