(1.) Kinkri Devi and C. S. Chauhan, residents of village Sangrah, Tehsil Renuka in District Sirmaur instituted the present petition on March 31,1987 claiming to be right holders of the village. They brought this petition as a social action litigation. A list of the other right holders of the village was appended as Annexure -P -1 to the petition. Initially there were four respondents in the petition which included the State of Himachal Pradesh through Secretary (Industries) ; the Deputy Commissioner, District Sirmaur ; V.K. Walia, who was carrying on limestone mining in the area ; and the Union of India. Later, several other respondents were added to the petition including the Cement Corpn. of India Ltd , a Government of India Enterprise, and the H. P State Pollution Control Board through its Chairman apart from a large number of lessees carrying on mining operations in the area. The mining leases in favour of the lessees enabled them to extract limestone in the area leased out to them for various purposes. According to the petitioners, the lessees were operating the mines in such a manner as to cause havoc to the adjoining land, water resources, pastures, forests, wild life, ecology, environment and inhabitants of the area.
(2.) When the petition was taken up for preliminary hearing on April 8, 1987, Counsel for the petitioners was permitted to place on record an article which had appeared in the "Indian Express" in its Issue dated April 6, 1987. It was an article by one Devinder Sharma, a Correspondent of the paper, written under the heading "Progress or peoples nightmare". It said that in the name of development, barren Shivalik hills were being ruthlessly blasted for extracting limestone which was causing immense damage to the area in various respects. The Court issued notice of the petition to the first four respondents the same day and directed them to tile separate affidavits in reply and to deal also with the contents of the newspaper article in their affidavits, after paying a visit to village Sangrah and personally verifying the facts on the spot on the basis of the official record available. The affidavits in reply, as directed by this Court, were filed and reports on affidavits were submitted by the officers after spot inspection.
(3.) On May 29, 1Q87 the Court passed an interim order. It noticed that the affidavits of the officers and the report placed by them on the record of the petition revealed that the apprehension expressed in the petition and the newspaper article in regard to the danger to the hilly tracts of the Sirmaur District and to its environment, ecology, natural resources and to the well being of the inhabitants on account of the quarrying of the limestone in, what appeared to be, an unscientific and uncontrolled manner was correct to a large extent. It. therefore, directed the State Government to set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, with members consisting of Secretaries in the Department of Industries, Public Works, Forests, Science, Technology and Environment and Agriculture to examine the question whether the grant of mining leases in respect of limestone in Tehsil Paonta Sahib, Renuka and Rajgarh in District Sirmaur, and particularly the grant of such leases in or around village Sangrah was in accordance with the statutory provisions or not and whether the mines were being scientifically operated or were being worked in an erratic and uncontrolled manner posing a present and potential danger to the soil, the agriculture, the forests, the water resources and the water supply schemes, the rivers, streams and nallahs, the flora and fauna, the ecology, the environment and life and living conditions of the people and their property. The Committee was also asked to incorporate its recommendations about evolution of a long -term plan and scheme for the grant of mining leases in the State and to suggest the preventive, curative and regulatory measures and machinery to ensure that the mining leases were to be operated in a scientific manner. It was also directed to consider and suggest remedial measures for the repair of the damage and for treatment of the affected natural wealth and resources and the local population because of indiscriminate mining operations and payment of compensation to the people inhabiting the area on that account The Committee was constituted on July 23, 1987 It was reconstituted, on the prayer made on behalf of the State Government, under an order dated August 26, 1987.;