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What the Lokayukta order on mining states

Leases renewed with Lightning speed

Only an ostrich with its head deeply buried in the pristine sand of Arabian Sea can say that the overnight renewals effected at a speed faster than that of the fastest jaguar or cheetah as was done during January 5 to 12, 2015, and particularly on January 12, 2015 itself had been routinely done in the course of official transactions without any iota of any malafide intention. On January 12, 2015 itself, 31 files relating to the renewal applications were taken up by the respondent no 3 (mines director) and the then chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar accorded his approval and the renewal orders were purportedly issued on the very same day. The pretext that the High Court had issued a mandamus to renew such leases does not hold any water as the mandamus to renew was in respect of only six of those 31 leases which were hurriedly renewed with lightning speed on January 12 itself and not in respect of others.

Renewals granted to leases that were under SIT scanner

Many of the renewals have been effected contrary to the policy of the government which was approved by the cabinet in November 2014 to not consider those leases for renewal of leases who had violated Rule 37 as highlighted by the Justice Shah Commission report or in the report of MoEF or in the report of EAC and also those who were guilty of storing of minerals outside their leases. It is apparent that the leases of some of the leaseholders against whom proceedings were pending under Rules 37 or SIT investigation for violations of many of the ancillary laws, were pending, were renewed in a great hurry without waiting for the conclusions of such inquires relating to the alleged violations soon after the news relating to impending Ordinance became known to everyone. This clearly shows that there was a conspiracy among the three respondents to show favour to many of the mining lease holders by renewing their leases almost in a mechanical manner.

Opinion of Indian Bureau of Mines overlooked

In many of the renewals, mandatory requirements relating to obtaining of opinion of Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) was conveniently overlooked through an ingenuous, bureaucratic legalese to the effect that seeking of such report was compulsory but obtaining of report was not compulsory. This was affected by the director and approved by the Secretary and the Minister in-charge of Mines by referring to the provision to the effect that in case the opinion of the IBM was not received within 3 months, it is taken that there is no objection. The other strategy to overcome such mandatory provision as contemplated under Rule 24-A(3) cleverly referring to the fact that the mining plan had been earlier sanctioned by the IBM which could be taken as a positive opinion. In doing so, the director has cleverly manipulated the real intention under Rule 24-A. This strategy was adopted by the director in respect of many of the applications for renewal of mining leases as by then during the first week of January it was widely known that the central government was intending to pass an Ordinance for grant of mining leases through auction.

Leases illegally renewed in conspiracy with 3 respondents

The renewal of several leases in the teeth of several irregularities committed by the lease holders by way of violations of Rule 37 or Rule 38 or other violations as has been highlighted by the Justice Shah Commission report or in the report of MoEF or in the report of EAC and the en masse renewals effected in great hurry soon after the news relating to impending Ordinance became known to everyone only clearly points out that there was a conspiracy among the three respondents to show favour to many of the mining lease holders by renewing their leases almost in a mechanical manner and therefore the responsibility and liability of Respondent No.1 to 3 cannot be ignored.

All respondents flouted Prevention of Corruption Act

By showing undue favour on many of the mining lease holders by rushing through the mechanism of renewal of such leases only with a view to overcome the effect of the Ordinance which was in the offing, such respondents have obviously conferred benefit on several mining lease holders and have thereby abused their official position and conferred on such lease holders valuable thing or pecuniary advantage thereby committing an offence under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Even it can be concluded that such respondents by illegal means obtained valuable thing or pecuniary advantage for another person that is the lease holder and thereby committed an offence under Section 13(1(d)(ii). Similarly it can be said that respondents by holding office as public servants had obtained for such lease holders valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest and thereby violating Section 13(1(d)(ii). Therefore such respondents had committed crime of criminal misconduct under 13(1) (d)(ii) and therefore should be prosecuted for offence punishable under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d).

ACB dithered on probing matters involving influential persons

This institution has experienced in the past that the ACB of government of Goa is most reluctant to launch prosecution when influential political persons/public servants are involved. In several cases, ACB has failed to even register FIR when the allegations of bribery had been made against public servants and has been most slow and lackadaisical in its approach in investigating matters involving influential persons. There is no doubt that all the respondents are very influential by virtue of nature of offices held by them. In such view of the matter, it is recommended that after registration of the FIR, the investigation shall be entrusted to some independent agency like CBI. It goes without saying that before filing charge-sheet, sanction as required to be obtained under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act or any other provision has to be obtained from appropriate authorities by the investigating authority.

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