New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved orders on the plea of the Reddy brothers of Bellary to allow them iron ore mining in the forest areas of Obulapuram on the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka border.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice B.S. Chauhan reserved the order after Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told it that the Survey of India (SOI) in its report had recommended a fresh demarcation of the boundaries of the leased area before mining activities could be permitted there.
Subramaniam said the SOI would take three more months to demarcate the leased area and till then the mining activities should continue to be suspended.
At present, mining activities are stalled under an apex court order of last month.
The three Reddy brothers — Gali Karunakar Reddy, Gali Janardhan Reddy and Gali Soma Shekhar Reddy — are mining barons of Bellary, India’s richest mining town. They own the Obulapuram Mining Company which is engaged in mining and transportation of iron ore in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.
Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati told the court that mining could not be allowed without demarcation of areas.
Senior counsel A.D.N. Rao, who appeared for the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on environmental matters, said that the conmmittee had submitted a report in 2009 saying that the mining area was not identifiable.
The SOI report said there was no clearly identifiable boundary separating Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Subramaniam said since the mining leases were granted without a reference point it becomes impossible to determine whether “You are mining within your allotted area or exceeded it”.
At this, Justice Verma said: “There would be some undisputed area where mining can be allowed. Can SOI maps be treated as authentic? We take SOI maps as authoritative and say don’t mine in the area of Karnataka and put it under the supervision of the court”.
“After all, Obulapuram Mining Company has to fulfill international commitments. They have their export obligations,” he said further.
Appearing for the Reddy brothers, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi told the court that when the SOI said that the border between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh was not clearly defined, how could his client be then accused of transgressing into the bordering area of Karnataka.
Opposing the plea for continuing the halt on the mining activities of the OMCL and others, Rohtagi said that mining activities of his client were already under stay for the last six months and if the suggestion of the solicitor general was accepted, it would continue in that state for four to five more months.
He said his client was granted statutory lease for mining iron ore. In most of the mining leases, his client was allotted less area than what he should have got under the lease agreement.
Rohtagi said undisputed area could be separated from the disputed area by a fence, a wall or whatever, and his client would bear the cost. The senior counsel also said as and when the SOI would require to do survey of this area, he would stop mining activities three days in advance.
Justice Verma then asked Rohtagi to identify the undisputed area. As Rohtagi said that mapping of the entire area and settling the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border issue would take a long time, Justice Verma said: “After we pass an order (for the demarcation of border), does Karnataka have a courage to oppose it?”
At this Rohtagi said Punjab has not implemented the apex court order on water sharing.
Justice Verma said that was an inter-State water dispute which was distinct from the demarcation of border between two States.