NGT | Forest Guard mowed down by mining mafia in Sariska: Tribunal asks authorities to take further remedial measures to enforce law of land || State PCB to follow Polluter Pays Principle for illegal mining activities

NGT

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice Brijesh Sethi (Judicial Members) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member), addressed a matter wherein it was alleged that a forest guard was mowed down by mining mafia in Sariska Tiger Reserve.

Proceedings based on News Report in Times of India

The inception of the present proceedings was based on a media report i.e. a news item published in the Times of India on 27-07-2020 under the heading “Forest guard mowed down by ‘mining mafia’ in Sariska”.

Forest home guard was mowed down by a tractor belonging to the suspected mining mafia inside Sariska Tiger Reserve after he attempted to stop them. The guard was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to injuries.

Further, it was stated that the tractor was seized but the accused was yet to be arrested. It was also added that this was not the first incident, in the past villagers have attacked forest officials.

Due to the menace of frequent attacks in Sariska, unarmed forest guards often struggle to protect the area.

Matter considered in the past

When the matter was considered on 10-08-2020, it was observed that there was failure of oversight regulatory mechanism in enforcing provision of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines, 2020.

In view of the above, a committee was constituted to take further remedial action and to file a report specifically mentioning estimate of illegal mining, number of mines sanctioned in the area and regulatory mechanism to check the illegal mining in the eco-sensitive area.

Analysis & Decision

Tribunal noted that in view of the Supreme Court decision in T.N Godavarman v. UOI, WP No. 2020 of 1995, tribunal by it’s order dated 20-12-2018 in Nityendra Manav v. UOI, had prohibited mining within 10 km of Sariska Tiger Reserve and quashed the Environmental Clearance in question against which appeal was filed before the Tribunal.

Coram in view of the above stated that it is necessary for the authorities to take further remedial measures to enforce the law of land.

Polluter Pays Principle

Further, it was directed that State PCB and District Magistrate, Alwar may take steps to stop operation of mining leases, operating illegally, without requisite consents and also to examine whether the leases for which consents are given are permissible. Tribunal added to its direction to State PCB that it may also recover compensation for damage to the environment by illegal mining activities, following due process on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.

To study the carrying capacity of the area to sustain the mining activities on ‘Sustainable Development’ principle, the constitution of a joint committee comprising MoEF&CC, CPCB, State PCB, Chief Wildlife Warden, SEIAA, Rajasthan and District Magistrate, Alwar has been directed.

CPCB and State PCB will be the nodal agency for compliance and coordination. and joint Committee may give its report within three months.

Matter to be listed for further consideration on 11-08-2021. [News item published on 27-07-2020 in the local daily named “Times of India” titled “Forest guard mowed down by ‘mining mafia’ in Sariska”,  2021 SCC OnLine NGT 79, decided on 6-04-2021]


Advocates before the tribunal:

Respondent: Ms. Punam Singh, Mr. Kumar Rajesh Singh, Advocates for MoEF & CC

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