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Illegal sand mining: HC orders strict check

Panaji: High Court of Bombay at Goa on Wednesday in a case related to illegal sand mining has directed the state and its various departments to undertake regular patrolling through flying squads at all stretches of rivers. 

The High Court Division Bench comprising of Justice M S Sonak and Justice M S Jawalkar said that such patrolling shall not be at any fixed time of the day but randomly during the day and during the night, so as to genuinely surprise those indulging in illegal sand mining and ensure the stoppage of such illegal sand mining.

The directions of the High Court came on a petition filed by Federation of Rainbow Warriors and other seeking remedial measures to be adopted by the state and its agencies to prevent and control illegal sand mining in the state of Goa.

The High Court said, “The canoes and boats used for illegal extraction of the sand shall be seized by the flying squads and thereafter confiscated. The registration of such canoes/boats used for illegal sand mining shall be cancelled by the Captain of Ports. The canoes/boats operating without registration shall be dealt with as per notification dated March 29, 2016 issued by the Director of Mines and Geology and the circular dated February 25, 2019 issued by the Captain of Ports.”

“The state and its authorities, in the first instance, shall ensure that the illegally mined sand stacked on the river banks or on plots close to the river banks is put back into the river or used for the purpose of replenishment of the areas, where erosion has taken place on account of indiscriminate sand mining or other natural causes. The expenses for this will have to be initially borne by the state and its agencies. However, the state and its agencies, should invariably recover such expenses from those found involved in illegal sand mining at the site,” the High Court said.

The High Court added, “If, for some reason such restoration or replenishment as aforesaid is not feasible, the state, may use the confiscated sand, gravel and other material for public projects, after maintaining proper records and following due procedures. The maintenance of such records is absolutely necessary, as otherwise, there is a tendency for such confiscated material to find its way into unauthorized markets, looking to the demand for this material, particularly from the real estate or construction industry.”

The High Court also said that the state should launch prosecution against those, found to be illegally extracting sand and other natural resources. For this purpose, the first information reports should be filed by invoking the appropriate provisions of the IPC and such prosecution should be pursued with all seriousness and taken to their logical conclusions. The state, must not, rest only with prosecution under the MMDR Act or the Goa Minor Mineral Concessions Rules, 1985, since, we find that most of these prosecutions, end up with levy of paltry penalties and fines upon those indulging in illegal extraction of sand and gravel from the riverbeds and river banks. 

The High Court said, “The areas which are quite notorious for illegal sand mining have been identified by the director of Mines and Captain of Ports, who are the main agencies of the government involved in the detection of illegal mining and charged with the responsibility of preventing such illegal mining or taking remedial action in that regard. Such areas are referred to in paragraph 33 of this Judgment and Order. The state and its agencies must ensure that there is intensive patrolling in these areas, both by road as well as in the rivers themselves. We direct that patrolling must be done at least thrice each day in these areas and police must make entries in this regard in the station diary in their respective police stations. The vigil at these areas will have to be kept mainly by the police authorities, who, upon detection of illegal sand mining must take immediate action, including by way of summoning flying squads constituted for the purpose of taking action in such matters.”

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