GENERAL PUBLIC OF SAPROON VALLEY Vs. STATE
HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
GENERAL PUBLIC OF SAPROON VALLEY
STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
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V.K.MENROTRA, J. -
(1.) Civil Writ Petition No. 567 of 1988 was instituted in this Court on 10/10/1988 by, what is described as, "the General Public of Saproon Valley through its President Murlidhar Sharma" along with eight other residents of village Lavighat and one of village Saproon in Tehsil and District Solan, in Himachal Pra-desh. There are sixteen respondents in the petition of whom the first five respondents are the State of Himachal Pradesh through Secretary (Industries); the Director of Indus-tries Himachal Pradesh, the Collector Solan; State Geologist, Himachal Pradesh; and the General Manager, District Industries Centre, Chambaghat, District Solan. Respondents 6 to 16 are the persons extracting limestone in the area. Of them four namely, Hariram Mehta (respondent No. 9), Sitam Ram (respondent No. 10), Bahadur Singh (respon-dent No. 15) and Mani Ram Mehta (respon-dent No. 11) of this petition are petitioners in the connected writ petitions No. 598, 599, 600 and 601 of 1939.
(2.) Solan District covers an area of 2100 square kilometres in the south-western part of Himachal Pradesh and is very well linked with a network of highways with other towns of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, being at the trijunction of these States. The mountainous terrain is moderate to high varying from 500 metre to 2200 metre above sea level. Limestone deposits were first reported in the area by Medicott (1864). The limestone in this area belongs to Krol Forma-tion which derives its name from the pro-minent 2278 metre high Krol Peak. From the account given by the local people, mining of limestone in the area dates back to about a hundred years. In the past, people used to extract limestone from the big limestone boulders lying near the roadside. The produc-tion and consumption of limestone in that period used to be negligible. The demand and production of limestone increased with the passage of time and short term permits used to be taken by the local inhabitants for extracting limestone which used to be ex-tracted from big limestone boulders embeded in the soil. The debris generated from the breaking up of limestone used to be kept at the same place. The spreading out of mine waste/debris and formation of channels along the slope led to pollution of water and erosion of the surrounding land, in addition to the hazard to the land and property located on the down slope. During early eighties, some of the short term permit holders installed ropeways for roping the limestone to the roadhead. The Industries Department en-couraged the local people of the area to take mining leases as systematic and scientific mining is possible only if the area is exploited on a long term planning. Parties applied for the mining leases which were granted in their favour. Since damage was caused to the local inhabitants on account of unscientific and unsystematic mining and transportation of mineral, some socially vigilant inhabitants lodged complaints with the Government in November 1986 requesting that the Director of Industries H. P. should visit the limestone mines in the Saproon Velley. The Director of Industries did so on June 12 and June 13, 1987 and after hearing the lessees, as also the objectors, came to certain conclusions which included the fact that the lessees, after having obtained the grant of lease, become adamant in carrying out mining operation in their own way without caring for damage caused to the land of the people. Also, that no working plan had been prepared for each mine and that damage which had been caused by the mining operations remained uninspected and where inspected, the directions given after the inspection were not implemented by the lessees. The Director of Industries submitted his recommendations to the Himachal Pra-desh Government on 26/06/1987, which were approved by the Government on 30/07/1987. After it, the Director informed the limestone lessees of the Saproon Valley about the defects noticed in the working of their mines and suggested some measures. The lessees of the area requested the Director to get the mining plans of their mines prepared through the departmental officers. There-after, the Assistant Geologist was directed on 5/01/1988 to prepare the mining plans of the limestone mines of the Saproon valley immediately. The Assistant Geologist camp-ed in the Valley from January to April 1988 to ensure the mapping of the mines and to guide the lessees to carry out some development works for minimising the degradation of the environment. The suggestions made by the Assistant Geologist, according to lessees, were implemented by them and intimation about it was given by the individual lessee to the Director Industries in October 1988. It is then that the first of these writ petitions (C.W.P. No. 567 of 1988) was filed in this Court on October 10 seeking a direction for stoppage of mining operations of limestone in the Valley.
(3.) By order dated 13/10/1988 this Court required the Advocate General, repre-senting the first five respondents, to place their version in the form of a reply indicating therein, with sufficient details and precision, the actual effect of the quarrying operations and the steps taken by the respondents in the matter. These respondents filed a reply in an affidavit sworn by the Director of Industries. Some of the private respondents also filed a reply. The matter came up before the Court on 13/12/1988 when some further directions were given and it was also said that no further mining operations of limestone shall be undertaken by any one in the Saproon Valley. Some more material was brought before this Court in the affidavits filed in the case on behalf of the first five respondents as well as the private respondents. The matter was heard at some length and on 19/04/1989, this Court directed appoint-ment of a Committee to examine the mining activity in Saproon Valley of Solan District. The order restraining mining operations pass-ed earlier was vacated and mining operations were permitted under some conditions. The Court noticed in the order that working plans (mining plans) in respect of various mines had been approved by the Director of Industries.;
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