New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the Union Coal Ministry for its “careless, callous and casual” approach in dealing with a lawful mining lease holder, and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on the Centre.
A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli said that the Ministry is not entitled to claim payment of an additional levy for the coal extracted by the mining company and ordered that any such demand raised by it is hereby quashed and set aside. Holding that the petitioner company – B.L.A. Industries Private Limited – followed all the rules and the law, as applicable, the bench in a judgment said, “Here is a case where a private party followed all the rules and the law, as applicable, before investing large sums of money to undertake business. In fact, it appears from the facts of the case that it was the Union of India (UOI) that did not follow the letter of the law. But ultimately, it was the private party that had to suffer the consequences of the careless and callous approach of the UOI.”
“To compound the petitioner’s woes, the UOI filed an affidavit before this Court including the petitioner in the list of errant mine owners, based on its own unlawful conduct. It did not undertake the necessary due diligence to determine whether the petitioner had been allotted the mine through the lawful procedure. As a result of this callous, careless and casual approach of the UOI, the present petitioner had to suffer loss and ignominy. Therefore, litigation costs quantified at Rs. one lakh shall be paid by the UOI to the petitioner within four weeks,” the judgement added.
The petitioner company had applied for a captive mining lease for 30 years for a coal block measuring 249.243 hectares situated in Villages Mohapani, Richhai and Chargaonkhurd in Madhya Pradesh. The process was initiated in 1995 and the approval for the mining was granted on August 27, 1997. The mining lease was executed on May 21, 1998. B.L.A. Industries Private Limited set up a coal washery operation in September 2001, and coal mining operations finally commenced in October 2014.
However, the petitioner company ran into trouble as its case got mixed up with the companies whose allocation of coal blocks was cancelled by the top court in 2014 though it was not remotely connected with them.