HC Dismisses Plea Against e-Auction Of Minor Minerals In J&K

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J&K High Court – File Photo

Srinagar: The J&K high court has dismissed plea against e- auctions of minor minerals in Jammu and Kashmir, observing that it is the most transparent and efficient method of conducting a public auction.

A bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar said that decision of the government to cancel the auction of 2017 was “bonafidely based on material on record and arrived at after application of mind and full consideration of the relevant material purely in public interest.”

“The decision to change the policy and to auction mineral licences by e-auction was a reasonable policy decision fairly made without any ulterior purpose for the discernible reasons,” the court said, adding, “that e-auctions are the most transparent, maximize competition, geographically inclusive, effective, efficient method of conducting a public auction which enables maximization of the public interest and national priorities.”

The court was hearing appeal to its single bench’s judgment, challenging dismissal of 16 petitions in which challenge was thrown to a communication of the Department of Industries and Commerce, scrapping open auction carried under the J&K Minor Minerals Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules 2016 and providing further that fresh auctions would be carried out only through e-auction mode.

The appeal was filed by Rakesh Kumar Choudhary, Chaman Lal, M/s Usman Construction and others, M/s Mohammad Ashore and others, Mohammad Farooq Lone & Others, Vikar Ahmad Dar, Nagar Singh, Shahnawaz Ahmad Bhat & anr.

The division bench directed the Chief Secretary to take immediate steps for appointing professional and qualified person(s)/ agency(ies) for technically and scientifically evaluating, in strict time frames, the issues of fixation of the reserved prices of minerals in the J&K; the terms and conditions on which auctions and tenders for grant of all mineral concessions are conducted and recommendations of the experts so appointed be implemented in public interest.

“The Chief Secretary shall, if not already done, appoint a Committee of Experts on the lines of directions given by the Supreme Court in National Green Tribunal Bar Association v. Virendra Singh (State of Gujarat), as well in Mushtakeen v. MOEFF & CC, to assess the components and scales of compensation and recommend measures of reparation for acts and omissions of the appellants which have resulted in environmental degradation.”

The court also directed the Chief Secretary to appoint a nodal officer and committee of officers to compute the scale of compensation as recommended by the Committee with a time bound mandate to issue notices to show cause to the appellants with regard to payment of compensation, if any, consideration of the responses, making appropriate determination of liability and effecting recoveries thereof.

The court set aside the conclusion of the Single Judge in its judgment that the appellants had a remedy in common law to seek compensation.

It also set aside the liberty granted by the Single Judge to the appellants to claim refund of their bid amount(s), if any, lying with the Department of Industries and Commerce or to sue the latter in appropriate proceedings for any loss or damage, if any, suffered by them.

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