BHOPAL : The High Court has quashed the state mining department’s order of granting mining lease of limestone mineral to Birla Corporation’s subsidiary company Talwandi Cements Ltd.

The Mining department invited applications from various industrial groups in 2007 for granting an area of approximately 25 kms in various villages of Satna district. Twenty five companies applied for the grant of mining lease. The mining minister heard all the applicants in August 2007 and reserved the file for issuing lease grant orders with him and passed final orders after a period of one year in September, 2008 allotting the mining area to Talwandi Cements Ltd.

The allotment was challeged by Aditya Birla Group company-UltraTech Cements Ltd on various grounds. Counsel for the petitioner UTCL Siddharth Radhelal Gupta contended that without assigning any specific reason the mining department had rejected the application for grant of lease despite the specific mandate of Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. The department allotted largest area of limestone to a still-born company through a mere 5 line operational order on the ground that its parent company Birla Corporation already runs a cement plant in district Satna.

Gupta further contended that the allotment order thus contravened not only the specific provisions of MMDR Act but also various guidelines and directions stipulated by the Supreme Court in host of cases.

On the submissions of the counsel for petitioner, the division bench presided by Chief Justice AM Khanvilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe held that the “passing of the grant order after one year of its oral arguments and that too by ignoring the written submissions of various applications amounted to breach of natural justice principles, which itself vitiated the order.”

The Division Bench further held that the grant order of mining lease violated the mandatory requirements of law viz. not giving reasons for the rejection of lease applications of other worthy applicants or comparing their inter – se merits for finding the most appropriate applicant for the grant of lease. Accordingly Division Bench whilst quashing the order of mineral grant in favor of Talwandi cements directed the Mining department for hearing both the parties afresh and pass fresh orders of mineral grant within a period of 3 months.

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