B. Subhashan Reddy, J. -
(1.)This Writ appeal is directed against the judgment dated 12-8-1991 passed by the learned single Judge in W.P. No. 4748 of 1989. The matter relates to quarry lease of lime stones slab over an extent of 16 hectares (equivalent to 40 acres) in Sy. No. 650/1 of Palukuru Village of Banganapally Mandal, Kurnool District. The said quarry lease was earlier held by one Mr. E.K.Venkatesham and the same expired on 20-8-1987. The grant of leases and renewals thereof of the quarries of instant nature are governed by the Andhra Pradesh Mines and Mineral Concession Rules, 1966 which were framed under rule making power under the Mines and Minerals Regulation and Development Act, 1957 which are hereinafter referred to as "the rules" Rule 13(2) of the said rules contemplates of making renewal application by the existing lessee and the time fixed for making such an application is 90 days before the expiry of the said lease. Mr. E.K.Venkatesham, had in fact applied for the renewal of the said lease on 14-5-1987 and the same was perfectly within time, but later he withdrew the same and on 17-7-1987, the 4th respondent herein had filed an application for the grant of quarry lease in the above survey number over an extent of 18 acres and the appellant herein has also filed an application for the grant of quarry lease for the entire extent of 40 acres, which was available. But, the said application was filed by the appellant on 10-8-1987 i.e. just 10 days before the expiry of the lease held by Mr. E.K.Venkatesham. Both these applications were not disposed of by the concerned authority within, the stipulated time of 90 days and as such, it was stated that there was deemed rejection of their applications which provoked them to file revisions before the Government and the Government had allowed the said revisions and directed the concerned authority i.e. The Deputy Director of Mines and Geology, Cuddapah, the 2nd respondent herein, to dispose of the said applications.
(2.)While the things stood thus, the 5th respondent filed an application for the grant of quarry lease in the above survey number on 17-2-1988 over an extent of 40 acres. Yet, another party, namely, M/s. South Indian Stone Polishing Industries had also filed an application dated 15-10-1987 for the grant of quarry lease in the above survey number over an extent of 18 acres. There was two writ petitions, namely, W.P. Nos. 12444 and 13504 of 1988 filed by the appellant and the 4th respondent respectively before this Court and this Court had issued directions to consider the applications for grant of quarry lease filed by them. The orders passed in the said writ petitions do not have any bearing for the adjudication of this case. This Court has simply directed to dispose of the application filed for the grant of quarry lease in the above survey number not only by the appellant and the 4th respondent but also other applications which were pending on the said date in accordance with law within a period of two weeks thereof. The 2nd respondent by his order dated 3-10-1988 contained in his proceedings number 5162/SQ/287, granted lease in favour of the 4th respondent in so far as 18 acres is concerned and the balance of 22 acres was granted in favour of the 5th respondent. The basis for the grant of the said leases in favour of 4th and 5th respondents respectively was the interpretation of the Law Department of R. 12(3) of the Rules which was later numbered as R. 12(4) of the Rules. The interpretation was to the effect that the application for grant of fresh lease was maintainable, provided, the same is filed 30 days before the expiry of the present lease and any application filed within 30 days of the expiry of the lease has to be treated as time barred. Concisely speaking, the applications were to be filed beyond 30 days of the expiry of the lease and not within 30 days of the expiry of the lease. The 2nd respondent held that there was only one valid application, namely, the application of the 4th respondent, for the grant of lease over an extent of 18 acres as the same was filed beyond 30 days as 30 days period was to expire on 21-7-1987 and the lease application by the 4th respondent was filed beyond the said period i.e. 17-7-1987. In that view of the matter, the 4th respondent's application was considered and he was granted lease over an extent of 18 acres as sought for, while rejecting the application of the appellant as time barred, as the same was filed 10 days before the expiry of the lease period. The 2nd respondent did not consider the appellant's application for the remaining area of 22 acres as he limited the said application for the grant of lease before the expiry of the existing lease and treated it as premature so far as the remaining area of 22 acres is concerned. He made a distinction of the applications filed before the expiry of the tease and later to it and as such, he did not consider the application of the appellant for the remaining area of 22 acres at all. For the extent of 22 acres, he had considered only the applications of 5th respondent and that of Messrs. South India Stone Polishing Industries, Bethamcherla, and giving preferential right to the 5th respondent, had rejected the application of M/s. South India Stone Polishing Industries. M/s. South India Stone Polishing Industries has not challenged the said order and the said order of rejection against the said party had become final. The appellant had pursued his remedy firstly by filing writ petition No. 15359/88 which was rejected by this Court at the admission stage on the ground of alternative remedy of appeal whereupon the appellant had filed the said statutory appeal before the 1st respondent in case No. 28228/M1/87. The 1st respondent had rejected the appeal affirming the order of the. 2nd respondent. Assailing the said orders, the appellant had filed Writ Petition No. 4748/89. The learned single Judge has repelled the contention of the petitioner that the application for grant of quarry lease filed by the appellant was in time on the interpretation that the same was entertainable, if filed, within 30 days of the expiry of lease. The learned Judge ruled that properly construing R.12(3), presently renumbered as R.12(4), fresh applications for grant of quarry lease can be entertained only if they are filed 30 days before the expiry of lease. Consequently, the lease granted in favour of the 4th respondent was upheld on the ground that it was the only valid application. With regard to balance of area, the learned Judge did not accept the contention of the respondents that the application filed by the respondent was premature. Consequently, the lease for the remaining area in favour of 5th respondent was set aside and directions were issued to consider the application of the appellant for grant of lease for the remaining area. Against this order, while the appellant had preferred the appeal, the 5th respondent has filed cross-objection.
(3.)Mr. E. Manohar, the learned counsel for the appellant contends that under R. 12(4), the application for grant of lease can be filed within 30 days of expiry of lease and as there were only two valid applications that of the appellant and the 4th respondent and the appellant being a Labour Co-operative Society, was entitled to have the lease on preferential basis as contemplated under Cl. (ii) of sub-rule (2) of R. 12of the Rules. He has cited the judgment dated 5-8-1980 rendered by the learned single Judge in W.P. Nos. 2634 and 2501 of 1980 as also the decision in Devangula Laxminarayana v. Director of Mines and Geology, AIR 1991 AP 167 in support of his propositions. In so far as the judgment in W.P. Nos. 2634 and 2501/80 is concerned, that deals with the aspects of preferential rights under Cl. (iii) of sub-rule (2) of R. 12 of the Rules and the contention relating to premature applications. In so far as the preferential rights adjudicated in the said writ petitions are concerned, it has got no bearing on the facts of this case. With regard to premature applications, the said judgment comprehensively dealt with the matter and held that merely because the application for grant of lease was filed before the expiry of the lease, it cannot be thrown out as premature and repelled the contention that R. 60 of Mineral Concession Rules has to be applied even to the leases under A.P. Mineral Concession Rules, 1966. The learned Judge held that what is applicable to major minerals cannot be made applicable to minor minerals and that such analogy of R. 60 of Mineral Concession Rules was not purposely adopted in the case of minor minerals. To the same effect is the judgment of the learned single Judge under appeal and also the decision in Devangula Laxminarayana's case, AIR 1991 AP167 and we are in respectful agreement with the said proposition laid down to the effect that under A.P. Mines and Mineral Concession Rules, 1966, the applications for grant of lease filed before the expiry of the current lease cannot be rejected as premature. With regard to the bar of limitation, vis-a-vis the appellant and the 4th respondent, the learned single Judge had rightly repelled the contention of the appellant that the language employed under R. 12(4) of the rules has to be construed to the effect that the lease application can be filed within a period of 30 days of expiry of lease. The proper construction is that the lease application should be filed "30 days before the expiry of lease" and not as "within 30 days of expiry of lease". As such, the application of the appellant dated 10-8-1987 is clearly barred by limitation and the same was rightly not considered by the 2nd respondent as contemplated under R. 12(4) of the Rules. We agree with the finding of the learned single Judge on this aspect and accordingly hold that the lease granted in favour of 4th respondent to the extent of 16 (18? -- Ed.) acres is valid and there is no infirmity, legal or otherwise, in the same.