Plea says Goa, pvt firms violated mining ban, SC issues notices

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Goa government to respond to a petition alleging violation of its October 5 ban on mining and transportation of iron and manganese ore in the state.

The forest bench led by Justice Aftab Alam also issued a notice to the Central Empowered Committee and two private companies accused of shipping out iron ore and posted the matter for further hearing on February 15.

The petition, filed by NGO Goa Foundation, alleged that the state government had allowed export of iron ore without verifying the firms' claims that it was extracted in Maharashtra, not Goa. "Application for transport and export has been allowed on the basis of statement made by the exporter and is not based on any records available with the Director of Mines. There appears to be no verification done as to the correctness of the application, which is necessary in view of the order of this court," the NGO's counsel Prashant Bhushan said.

Goa's counsel Ranjit Kumar, however, called these claims factually incorrect and contended that the petition interpreted the court's order inappropriately: it had not, he argued, banned import of ore from outside Goa and its subsequent export. The accused firms also sought to be heard and claimed they had all requisite permits and that their actions were within the limits of the law. Bhushan also sought an interim stay on export of ore from Goa but the bench refused to pass an order at this stage.

The court had passed its October 5 order after Justice MB Shah Commission reported that private miners had plundered iron ore worth Rs 35,000 from Goa over the past 12 years.

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