BISWANATH RATH,J. -
(1.) Filing the writ petition, the petitioner challenges the impugned order dated 19.6.2019, vide Annexure-17 being passed by the Principal Secretary to Government in Revenue and Disaster Management Department, O.P.1 herein. The petitioner has also the further prayer seeking a command against O.Ps.1 to 4 to allow the execution of deed pursuant to Annexure-10 in the matter of grant of quarry lease, namely, "Kathagochhi Stone Quarry" of Tahasil-Nilgiri, Dist.-Balasore in favour of the petitioner and consequently allow the petitioner to have the operation of the said quarry within the stipulated period of time.
(2.) Short background facts involved in the case are that the petitioner claims to be a registered Society involving Association of people whose livelihood is dependent on the stone quarries in and around their village. The attempt of the petitioner is also to prevent the pilferage and theft of stones from different quarries by illegal means ultimately causing revenue loss to the State. It is stated that around ten numbers of stone quarries were in operation in Nilgiri Sub-Division until March, 2012 for catering the needs of stone for various civil constructions including public/private housing, Railways, Defence Establishment and the Highways etc. in the district of Balasore, Maurbhanj and Bhadrak as well as for the neighbouring State of West Bengal. It appears, operation of all such quarries was stopped by the District Administration from 1st April, 2012. After a long time for their livelihood affecting the members of the petitioner-Society and for their no engagement for the stoppage of stone quarry operation further finding there was huge demand of public to lease out stone quarry and some people indulging themselves in theft of stones, the petitioner-Society approached O.Ps.1 and 2 to take necessary steps for leasing out stone quarry stopped since 2012 but however as per the provisions in the Orissa Minor Minerals Concession Rules, 2016 herein after in short called as Rule 2016. It is claimed that on the advice of O.P.1, the Petitioner-Society submitted a representation on 18.3.2016 with their concrete proposal and requested for considering the same by the competent authority. It is on the above development, O.P.2 called upon O.P.3 for a marginal report of feasibility for operation of the stone quarry in question, in respect of which O.P.3, vide his communication no.1903 dated 16.5.2016 reiterated that the quarry in question can be operated subject to however following prerequisites as indicated therein. It is based on submission of such report, O.P.2 again sought for a report from the District Environment Impact Assessment Committee, which had also given its decision upon the field visit dated 19.10.2016 recommending to allow the operation of the quarry in question subject to certain limitation for scientific and systematic mining and the old unsafe quarry portion should be back filled by the over-burden and taking care of the safety precaution further subject to clearance from the competent authority. Based on the above development, the petitioner consolidated and negotiated the land owners of the land with deposit of overburdens of Kathagochhi village adjacent to the sairat source and consequently executed lease deed with them for operation in addition to the sairat source upon due payment of compensation. While the matter stood thus, the R.I. also on instruction from the District Administration made a sketch map of proposed Kathagochhi Stone Quarry covering a total area of 10.686 hectares and placed it before the Collector through O.P.4. It is then O.P. No.2 moved the Member Secretary, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Odisha, Bhubaneswar stating the difficulties in construction activities, due to non-availability of building and road material in Balasore District and consequently sought for their opinion regarding operation of the stone source including Government and Private plots, vide Annexure-5. O.P.5 after receipt of the aforesaid letter requested O.P.2 in its letter dated 17.11.2016 to upload E.C. Application along with Check List Approval, Mining Plan, Environment Management Plan and Pre-feasibility Report and other necessary documents in their website for final approval, vide Annexure-6. It is claimed that upon consideration of all the documents, O.P.5 after thorough investigation, meeting/discussion among Scientists/Expert Committee Members with necessary qualification from the D.F.O., Balasore finally granted Environment Clearance (EC) on 20.6.2018, vide Annexure-7. Appropriate Mining Plan was also obtained from the competent authority, vide Annexure-8. It is only after getting Environment Clearance and the Mining Plan, O.P.2 took a decision in a meeting held with the A.D.M., Sub-Collector, Tahasildar, ACF (For DFO), Mining Officer, Environmental Scientists from State Pollution Control Board, Environment Scientist Expert and representatives of the petitioner to consider the lease for operation of the stone quarry but however putting the quarry into auction in terms of the Rules. It is based on the above development, the quarry was put to auction by notice dated 16.1.2019. In the auction process, the petitioner society being successful was intimated, vide letter dated 1.2.2019 and thereby was directed to convey its acceptance to the terms and conditions and to deposit the amount as prescribed under Rules 10(12) & (13), 16(10) & (11), 27(7) and (9) of Rules 2016. The petitioner was also directed to submit the proof of deposit and to execute deed in respect of prospecting lease-cum-mining lease/quarry lease within the period prescribed in Sub-Rule (1) of Rule 43 of the Rules, 2016 in compliance of which the petitioner deposited the consideration money and the security deposit amounting to Rs.3,75,000/- + Rs.20,00,000/- in total Rs.23,75,000/- and submitted the receipt before the competent authority, the Tahasildar, Nilgiri, O.P.4.
The petitioner's claim is that for their compliance of all the conditions imposed by the competent authority, the petitioner validly accepted execution of lease deed and consequently was permitted for operation of the stone quarry but however the same was delayed. It is submitted that while the petitioner waiting for the decision/permission from the competent authority, it came to the notice of the petitioner that at the instance of an unsuccessful bidder under the leadership of one Ratnamanjari Mallik, wife of Khagendra Mallik, an employee of Odisha Secretariat claiming to be appearing on behalf of some villagers, created disturbances and hindrance on the way of execution of the lease deed. In the process they also attempted to demand ransom from the petitioner in lieu of operation of the quarry in question. For the petitioner ignoring such demand, the above party lodged a complaint before O.P.4 with all frivolous allegation of non-clearance by the Pollution Control Board with an intention to block the petitioner operating the quarry. It is further submitted that the petitioner filed caveat petition bearing No.406 of 2019 in this Court to grant their interest in the event any writ petition being moved by their opponent. Copy of the caveat petition was also sent to the parties wherein there is an attempt to block the petitioner. Finding the petitioner watching the proceeding, the above parties in names of different persons (O.Ps.6 to 9 herein) in the garb of Public Interest Litigation filed W.P.(C) PIL No.5547 of 2019 thereby enclosing an ante-dated representation dated 15.2.2019 showing to have been made to O.P.1, as the grievance of villagers of Kathagochhi and made an attempt to have an innocuous prayer in the matter of consideration of their representation through the above writ petition.
(3.) The above writ petition was entertained and disposed of by this Court by order dated 25.3.2019 at the admission stage with direction that in the event any such representation is filed and pending consideration before O.P.1, the same shall be considered, examined and disposed of by O.P.1 in accordance with law within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order with a further direction that the authority may ask for a report from the Collector with regard to the grievance of the petitioners.;