Rashid Paul

HC upholds govt decision to sell minor minerals through e-auction mode

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court Friday upheld sale of minor minerals in the Jammu and Kashmir through e-auction mode, saying it enables “maximization of the national priorities”.

The court was hearing an appeal against a single bench order that dismissed petitions by 16 miners from J&K who pleaded that the new procedure adopted by the administration was hurting their interests.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar said the decision of the government to cancel the auction of 2017 was bonafidely based on material record arrived at after application of mind and full consideration of the relevant material.

It also set aside the liberty granted by the Single Judge to the appellants to claim refund of their bid amount(s), if any, lying with the Department of Industries and Commerce or to sue the latter in appropriate proceedings for any loss or damage, if any, suffered by them.

The bench said the decision to change the policy and to auction mineral licenses by e-auction was a reasonable policy decision fairly made without any ulterior purpose for the discernible reasons.

It said “e-auctions are the most transparent; maximize competition, geographically inclusive, effective, efficient method of conducting a public auction which enables maximization of the public interest and national priorities.”

The court directed the Chief Secretary to take immediate steps for appointing professional and qualified person(s)/agency(ies) for technically and scientifically evaluating, in strict time-frames, the issues of fixation of the reserved prices of minerals in the J&K.

“The Chief Secretary shall, if not already done, appoint a Committee of Experts on the lines of directions given by the Supreme Court in National Green Tribunal Bar Association v. Virendra Singh (State of Gujarat), as well in Mushtakeen v. MOEFF & CC, to assess the components and scales of compensation and recommend measures of reparation for acts and omissions of the appellants which have resulted in environmental degradation,” directed the court.

The Chief Secretary has also been asked to appoint a nodal officer and committee of officers to compute the scale of compensation as recommended by the Committee with a time-bound mandate to issue notices to show cause to the appellants with regard to payment of compensation, if any, consideration of the responses, making appropriate determination of liability and effecting recoveries thereof.

The court set aside the conclusion of the Single Judge bench judgment that the appellants had a remedy in common law to seek compensation.

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