Allahabad High Court: In a petition filed against the order dated 16-3-2022 passed by the State Government thereby rejecting the revision preferred by the petitioner against the cancellation of mining lease vide order passed by District Magistrate (‘DM’), Banda, the Single Judge Bench of Alok Mathur, J held that the inquiry proceedings against the petitioner are in clear violation of the principles of natural justice and the defence of the petitioner has been severely prejudiced. Further, it was held that the ground of bias squarely applies to the facts of the present case and the order dated 16-03-2022 rejecting the revision is clearly illegal, arbitrary, and violative of Rule 58 of the Uttar Pradesh Minor Mineral (Concession) Rules, 1963 (‘Rules of 1963’).
In the case at hand, the petitioner in response to an e-tender/e-auction for mining participated in the auction and his bid was adjudged to be the highest, and a lease deed was executed in his favor. After execution of the mining lease, the petitioner started mining operations but suddenly one time password was stopped by the District Magistrate, as it was alleged that the petitioner is involved in illegal mining and he has extracted minor minerals from the area not allotted to him and extracted mineral to a depth which was not permissible as per the lease deed.
The Court noted that the inspection report regarding each of the license holders, in an extremely cryptic manner has only recorded that the license holders are involved in illegal mining and the quantities have been mentioned which have been illegally extracted by them.
It further noted that the inspection report only records that the petitioner has made excavation and extracted minor minerals from the areas outside the mining area. It is nowhere mentioned when and where the inspection was carried out, who were present during the inspection and most importantly whether the inspection was carried out at the location allotted to the petitioner is also doubtful as there is no mention that G.P.S. Coordinates were used for identification of the plot.
Thus, the Court said that if the allegation against the petitioner is that they have illegally mined beyond the leased area then it was the duty of the inquiry team to have identified/pointed out the same, but there was no attempt to establish the case that illegal mining had been done on area beyond the leased area.
Placing reliance on Ranveer Singh v. State of U.P., (2017) 1 ADJ 240, the Court viewed that the allegations against the petitioner for illegal mining could not be clearly established and merely stating that large quantity of the minerals have been extracted by them would not ipso facto prove that the petitioner had been involved in illegal mining. It is the duty of the State to obtain and produce credible evidence in support of the allegations to bring home the charges.
Further, the Court regarding the non-supply of the inspection report, said that once it is noticed that action is taken solely based on inspection report then non supply of the said report to the person against whom proceedings are to be carried out necessarily constitutes miscarriage of justice, as the petitioner has a right to receive all the material which constitutes the charges against him, so that he can adequately respond to the charges and defend himself effectively.
Thus, the Court held that the inquiry proceedings against the petitioner are in clear violation of the principles of natural justice and the defence of the petitioner has been severely prejudiced.
Placing reliance on Mohd. Mustafa v. Union of India, (2022) 1 SCC 294, the Court viewed that Director, Geology and Mining was a Judge of her own cause as she decided a matter which was initiated by her and also the revision challenging the order of DM was passed on her dictates. Thus, the Court held that the ground of bias squarely applies to the facts of the present case and the order dated 16-03-2022 rejecting the revision is clearly illegal, arbitrary and is hit with bias.
Moreover, the Court took note of Rule 58 of the Rules of 1963 and said that as the cancellation order has been passed on 26-4-2021 before the expiry of statutory period, thus Rule 58 has been flagrantly violated by the respondents in cancellation of their lease in pursuance of the show cause notice dated 12-4-2021. Therefore, the Court on this ground also held that the cancellation order is illegal, arbitrary and violative of Rule 58 of the Rules of 1963.
[Radhika Constructions v State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine All 119, decided on 01-03-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Counsel for Petitioner:- Advocate Shishir Chandra;
Counsel for Respondent:- Chief Standing Counsel Tushar Verma.