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Indian Case Summary

Goa Foundation vs Union Of India . on 21 April, 2014 – Case Summary

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In the case of Goa Foundation vs Union of India on 21 April 2014, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate on a series of writ petitions and transferred cases related to mining in the state of Goa. The case was heard under the civil original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, with Justice A.K. Patnaik presiding.

Facts of the Case

The case revolved around the mining concessions granted by the Portuguese Government in Goa before 19 December 1961, when Goa was a Portuguese territory. After Goa became part of the Indian Union, the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (the MMDR Act) was made applicable to the state. The Portuguese mining concessions were converted into mining leases under the MMDR Act by the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987 (the Abolition Act).

The Goa Foundation, a non-profit environmental conservation group, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court, alleging widespread illegal mining activities in Goa. The foundation sought directions to the Union of India and the State of Goa to terminate the mining leases of those involved in illegal mining activities and to prosecute those who committed offences under various environmental and mining laws.

The Justice Shah Commission and its Report

The Central Government had appointed the Justice Shah Commission to inquire into reports of widespread illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore in various states, including Goa. The Commission was tasked with determining the nature and extent of illegal mining and trade, identifying the persons and entities involved, assessing the impact of such activities, and recommending remedial measures.

The Justice Shah Commission visited Goa, collected information, and submitted its interim report on 15 March 2012. The report was tabled in Parliament on 7 September 2012, following which the State Government of Goa suspended all mining operations in the state from 11 September 2012.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Supreme Court observed that the Justice Shah Commission did not provide the mining lessees with an opportunity to be heard or to produce evidence in their defence, which was a violation of the principles of natural justice. However, the Court did not quash the report of the Commission, as the State Government of Goa assured the Court that no action would be taken against the mining lessees based solely on the findings of the Commission’s report.

The Court examined the legal and environmental issues raised in the report and considered granting the reliefs prayed for in the writ petition filed by the Goa Foundation and the reliefs prayed for in the writ petitions filed by the mining lessees.

The Court also addressed the issue of whether the leases held by the mining lessees had expired. The Court noted that the mining concessions were converted into mining leases under the MMDR Act by the Abolition Act. The period of these leases was extended up to six months from the date of assent to the Abolition Act, i.e., up to 22 November 1987. The Court observed that most of the lessees had applied for the first renewal of the deemed mining lease within this period.

The case was reserved for judgment on 11 November 2013. The Court directed that the inventory of the excavated mineral ores lying in different mines/stockyards/jetties/ports in the State of Goa be verified and thereafter sold by e-auction. The sale proceeds were to be retained in separate fixed deposits (lease-wise) by the State of Goa until the Court delivered the judgment in these matters on the legality of the leases from which the mineral ores were extracted. The Court also constituted an Expert Committee to conduct a macro Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study on the annual excavation of iron ore from the State of Goa.