FPJ Legal|Samruddhi Mahamarg construction: No relief to Ahmedabad firm for illegally excavating sand, asked to pay Rs 242 crore

Narsi BenwalUpdated: Thursday, September 09, 2021, 09:46 PM IST
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The Bombay High Court bench of Justice Mangesh Patil at the Aurangabad seat on Wednesday dismissed petitions filed by an Ahmedabad-based firm to quash the orders of a tehsildar asking them to pay around Rs 242 crores as fine for illegally excavating minerals while working for the Mumbai-Nagpur Express Highway, popularly known as the "Samruddhi Mahamarg."

The bench was hearing a plea filed by Montecarlo Ltd. Iron Triangle (Joint Venture) through its authorized officers - Anilkumar Anantlal, (Project Manager) and Awnish Bharadwaj.

Notably, the Tehsildars of Jalna and Badnapur had in September last year served recovery notices of Rs 242 crore to a construction company for allegedly illegally extracting minerals and using them in the construction of Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway.

According to the notices, the company had illegally extracted 'murum' and stones in Badnapur and Jalna, where the expressway work is being carried out, which is covering around 25 villages.

The revenue department had inspected the sites after former MLA of Badnapur lodged complaints alleging that there was a rampant misuse of the permissions granted to the firm to excavate the sand for the Mahamarg.

Upon inspection, it was found that minerals and stones were being extracted without any permits.

Accordingly, the Tahsildars of Jalna & Badnapur issued notices for recovery of royalty and penalty to the tune of Rs 79.20 crores and Rs 163 crores, respectively. However, since there weren't any responses filed by the company, the authorities ordered them to pay the penalties and the royalties.

The company had challenged these orders before Justice Patil's bench. It questioned the jurisdiction and powers of a Tahsildar to issue such notices especially under the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code (MLRC). It argued that the Tahsildar breached the principles of natural justice by denying them any opportunity to hear.

The bench, however, while referring to the provisions of the MLRC held that the Tahsildar was indeed empowered to issue such notices and even pass consequent orders.

"I hold that the Tahsildar had the jurisdiction to pass the impugned orders. Having read about show cause notices been issued to the company but there was no response, thus it cannot be said that an opportunity of being heard was not extended to it and that there is breach of the principles of natural justice," Justice Patil said while dismissing the pleas.

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