The Union Law Ministry has reportedly advised the Union Ministry of Mines that the central government should reject Goa’s request for an amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Act) for the resumption of mining in the state.
The news report published by ‘The Indian Express’ from New Delhi, on Monday, states that the Law Secretary Suresh Chandra has informed the Mines Ministry last month that there was no legislative cure to the shutdown of mines in Goa following a decision by the Supreme Court in February. He has advised that the miners should directly approach the apex court for a review.
The report has not only created unrest among the mining dependants but also ‘exposed’ the Bharatiya Janata Party’s MPs.
According to the Law Ministry, as reported by the national media, it would be pointless to approach the Attorney General for an opinion on the proposed amendment, which is “inconsistent” with Section 8A of the MMDR Act as well as the apex court’s judgment and directions. Section 8A deals with the period of grant of a mining lease for minerals other than coal, lignite and atomic minerals, and limits the period for which existing leases may be
extended depending on the nature of the mining lease — captive or non-captive.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had requested the Centre to amend the MMDR Act to extend the tenure of mining leases to the year 2037, so that mining operations could resume in the state.
Mining in Goa was stopped on March 15 after the apex court quashed the second renewal of 88 mining leases granted by the state government.
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) chief Pandurang Dhavalikar has already issued an ultimatum stating that his party would withdraw from the ruling alliance if the mining issue was not resolved by December 15.
Parrikar had requested the Centre that Section 8A be amended to re-fix the official start date of the 50-year mining leases beginning 1987. This has been perceived by the Law Ministry as altering the “very basis” of the Supreme Court judgment.
The Law Secretary is of the view that the issue relating to illegal mining in Goa was specifically dealt by the Court and “the attempt by the state government to validate their continuance de hors (outside of) the legal provisions occupying the field was rejected.”
The Law Secretary has also advised that the Goa government should ask the stakeholders to seek a review of the February 7 order as the Court, while giving directions and cancelling the lease, had perhaps not considered the vested rights of the miners.
“The law laid down by the Supreme Court under Article 141 of the Constitution or the law made by the Parliament normally does not take away the vested rights. This may be a sufficient ground for seeking review of the Supreme Court order,” Chandra has stated.
The mining dependants, under the banner of Goa Mining People’s Front, have been putting pressure on the alliance partners of BJP to withdraw support to the government ‘if no solution is arrived at to the mining issue by December 15, 2018.’