New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday took strong note of continuing "illegal mining" of minerals by some firms in Odisha without obtaining forest clearance (FCs) from authorities under the garb of "status quo" orders, and asked the state high court to dispose of such matters in six months.
The top court was irked over the fact that the mining companies, which have not been granted FCs by the Centre and other authorities, are continuing with the "illegal excavation" of minerals on grounds that the high court has passed the status quo orders with regard to the dispute.
"How can the mining be continued without getting forest clearance (from authorities) under the garb of a status quo order from the high court," a vacation bench of justices M R Shah and Aniruddha Bose said.
"Anything which has been excavated without the forest clearance is illegal. You cannot be permitted to continue with the excavation or extraction of minerals without the forest clearance. It is unfortunate that high courts are passing such orders of status quo and permitting continuance of mining work," the bench said.
The bench, which was hearing the appeal of M/s Balasore Alloys Ltd of Odisha against the high court's refusal to continue with the status quo order favouring the firm, permitted the company to withdraw its plea.
It said that it would permit the withdrawal but the company cannot be allowed to mine as it does not "have the forest clearance to mine as on today and hence, this is illegal and cannot be done. "
"We have heard the ...counsel. It is not in dispute that the petitioner is not having the forest clearance at this stage. Merely because the application for forest clearance is pending cannot be treated as having obtained the forest clearance permitting the petitioner to carry on the mining activities," it said.
"Before parting with the present order, we request, the (Orissa) high court to decide and dispose of all such pending matters, where the order of status quo is continuing since long and the mining activities have been continued under the order of status quo, within a period of six months from today without fail. With this the present SLP is dismissed as withdrawn," it ordered.
It directed the apex court's registry to communicate the order to the chief justice of the high court forthwith for necessary action.