Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah*, JJ has held that Magistrate can in exercise of powers under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code order/direct the concerned Incharge/SHO of the police station to lodge/register crime case/FIR even for the offences under the the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) and the Rules framed thereunder and at this stage the bar under Section 22 of the MMDR Act shall not be attracted.
The Court was hearing a case relating to offences under Sections 379 and 414 IPC, Sections 4/21 of the MMDR Act and Rule 18 of the M.P. Minerals (Prevention of illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2006 where the Magistrate in exercise of powers conferred under Section 156(3), Cr.P.C. suo motu directed to register criminal case under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. for initiation of investigation and for submitting of report after due investigation is conducted. The concerned In-charge/SHOs of the concerned police stations was also directed to register the first information report and a copy of the first information report be sent to the learned Magistrate as per the provisions of Section 157, Cr.P.C. The Madhya Pradesh High Court had refused to quash the criminal proceedings.
It hence, concluded
i) that the Magistrate can in exercise of powers under Section 156(3) of the Code order/direct the concerned Incharge/SHO of the police station to lodge/register crime case/FIR even for the offences under the MMDR Act and the Rules made thereunder and at this stage the bar under Section 22 of the MMDR Act shall not be attracted;
ii) the bar under Section 22 of the MMDR Act shall be attracted only when the Magistrate takes cognizance of the offences under the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder and orders issuance of process/summons for the offences under the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder;
iii) for commission of the offence under the IPC, on receipt of the police report, the Magistrate having jurisdiction can take cognizance of the said offence without awaiting the receipt of complaint that may be filed by the authorised officer for taking cognizance in respect of violation of various provisions of the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder; and
iv) that in respect of violation of various provisions of the MMDR Act and the Rules made thereunder, when a Magistrate passes an order under Section 156(3) of the Code and directs the concerned In-charge/SHO of the police station to register/lodge the crime case/FIR in respect of the violation of various provisions of the Act and Rules made thereunder and thereafter after investigation the concerned In-charge of the police station/investigating officer submits a report, the same can be sent to the concerned Magistrate as well as to the concerned authorised officer as mentioned in Section 22 of the MMDR Act and thereafter the concerned authorised officer may file the complaint before the Magistrate along with the report submitted by the concerned investigating officer and thereafter it will be open for the learned Magistrate to take cognizance after following due procedure, issue process/summons in respect of the violations of the various provisions of the MMDR Act and Rules made thereunder and at that stage it can be said that cognizance has been taken by the learned Magistrate.
v) in a case where the violator is permitted to compound the offences on payment of penalty as per sub-section 1 of Section 23A, considering sub-section 2 of Section 23A of the MMDR Act, there shall not be any proceedings or further proceedings against the offender in respect of the offences punishable under the MMDR Act or any rule made thereunder so compounded. However, the bar under sub-section 2 of Section 23A shall not affect any proceedings for the offences under the IPC, such as, Sections 379 and 414 IPC and the same shall be proceeded with further.
Considering the need for stringent provisions which may have deterrent effect so that the violators may think twice before causing damage to the earth and the nature, the Supreme Court said
“It might be true that by permitting the violators to compound the offences under the MMDR Act or the rules made thereunder, the State may get the revenue and the same shall be on the principle of person who causes the damage shall have to compensate the damage and shall have to pay the penalty like the principle of polluters to pay in case of damage to the environment. However, in view of the large scale damages being caused to the nature, the policy and object of MMDR Act and Rules are the result of an increasing awareness of the compelling need to restore the serious ecological imbalance and to stop the damages being caused to the nature.”
In the present case, on a surprise inspection, the respective Mining Inspectors checked the tractor/trolleys of the private appellants along with the minor mineral (sand/storage/yellow soil etc.) loaded in them.
[Jayant v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 989, decided on 03.12.2020]
*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment