PK Mukherjee* mulls on a long lasting legal solution for restart of mining activities in the state
I t’s almost 6 months since the (in)famous Supreme Court judgement of February 7 was delivered whereby, the iron ore mining operations in Goa was again (first closure was in 2012) stopped effective 16th March, 2018.
The consensus developed over the last 6 months to ‘quickly’ resume mining is apparently in favour of an Ordinance (or Amendment) whereby the 1987 Act of abolition of mining concessions in Goa [The Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, hereinafter referred as Act] is made effective prospectively from the enactment date of the said Act instead of being retrospective from 1961 when Goa was liberated (“appointed day” of 20th December, 1961).
The result would be then the same (Ordinance or Amendment), read with MMRD Amendment Act of 2015, would give life of 50 years to all deemed leases of Goa and the leases would thereby expire in 2037. Consequently, the aforesaid judgement declaring 2nd renewals of the leases effective 2007 were bad, would become null and void.
On the face of it, the aforesaid solution looks very simple but in reality it may not be so. While an Amendment may be the preferred route than Ordinance, the same needs to be appropriately ring-fenced, so as to avoid the onslaught of activists and conscientious judiciary, who apparently don’t have any accountability to any one in our beloved democracy. Now a day, many judgements are based on conscience of individual judges influenced by media trials and/or propaganda of activists (sometimes as a front of international business rivals) rather than law laid down in statutes or earlier judgements!
To make such amendment a long lasting legal solution, one needs to appropriately draft and follow the due process, besides taking care of some important consequences as under:
l All judgements delivered so far in respect of validity of Goa mining leases, based on appointed day of pre-amended Act, will become null and void.
l The confiscations, penalties, fines, contributions, duties, taxes and any other such financial implications (by whatsoever name called) of those judgements that have already been effected, collected, acted upon by various authorities would not be nullified or reversed or refunded.
l Notwithstanding the provisions contained in any other acts, rules and regulations, all permissions, clearances, licenses granted earlier in respect of mining leases for a term co-terminus with the mining lease period will automatically be valid for a term co-terminus with the revised validity period of the leases, consequent to the aforesaid Amendment.
l The investigations and legal cases already initiated or concluded, would not be impacted in any manner whatsoever owing to the said Amendment.
l The Amendment is only in respect of the Appointed Day and only its direct consequence on lease validity will be impacted along with other impacts as stated specifically above and no other consequences of any judgement in respect of other matters including, but not limited to capacities, would be impacted.
It is important to include all the above points specifically in the Amendment provisions before it’s enacted by parliament who is solely authorised to legislate. Needless to mention that the Amendment needs to be vetted by best of legal brains in the country to make it actually working.
Now coming to doables by other stakeholders. The miners, along with other relevant parties, must have uncompromising attitude towards social good, be it
l Improvements in road traffic condition
l Working within acceptable levels of dust pollution on roads and neighbouring villages
l Avoidance of siltation of agricultural lands and water bodies
l Impacting the level and contamination of ground water
l Pro-active visible role in creation of social infrastructure in association with DMF committees, wherever required
l Visible role in creating employability of local population; and so on.
In other words, in today’s world social licensing for any activity is a must and the same needs to be approached with continuous positive frame of mind by all stakeholders, be it miners and its employees, truckers, barge operators, panchayats, people’s representatives or law enforcing authorities.
Experience says that buying of temporary peace on social front does more evil than good and therefore there needs to be an open forum of dialogue at pre- defined intervals with concerned stakeholders in respect each mine, cluster to address the issues on social fronts.
In respect of any unresolved dispute, the same must be brought to a larger public forum and the contention of all the parties must be informed to public at large through various means, if we are serious to have a long lasting mining activity in Goa.
Mining operation in Goa is not a rocket science and many advanced countries and greener geographies do mining at a much larger scale without inviting so many frequent controversies. Let all stakeholders of mining in Goa put their hands to their hearts to have positive frame of mind which only can ensure sustainable mining and marginalise the self proclaimed activists.
*The author is the chairman of the mining infrastructure committee of Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ex managing director of Sesa Goa