New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an order of the Madras High Court directing stoppage of all sand quarrying activities in the State within six months and restraining the government from opening any new quarries.
A Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta stayed the High Court order on a special leave petition filed by Tamil Nadu challenging the order.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi and counsel Yogesh Khanna appearing for the State submitted that the High Court ought not to have passed the order without ascertaining the demand and supply position of sand in the State.
The High Court had directed the State government to periodically close all the quarries of granites and other minerals except that of “jelly” in order to maintain ecological balance.
It also asked the State to establish permanent check-posts within the State with the officers equipped sufficiently to curb and prevent the illegal mining and transportation of sand; the check post officers shall maintain the record of all the vehicles crossing by; the State shall also fix camera at the check posts and connect the same with a common server to ensure that illegal mining and transportation is curbed.
The State said the petition arose from a dispute raised by an importer of sand who was not permitted to transport imported silica sand. The importer had imported the sand against the state’s law and regulations regarding the storage and transportation of imported sand within the state of Tamil Nadu and the court passed directions.
The special leave petition said the stoppage of sand quarrying in would have a disastrous effect in as much as all the construction activities in the State will come to a complete standstill because of the absence of sand, which is a basic raw material.
The High Court has failed to appreciate that the river sand imported from other countries is costlier.
The supply of river sand would considerably get reduced, as it would depend on the handling capacity of the port to stock and evacuate the river sand.
The four major ports in the State, namely Ennore, Kattupalli, Chennai and Tuticorin put together can only stock and evacuate about 2000 truckloads on a daily basis whereas the requirement of the Chennai City alone is about 5000 truckloads on a daily basis.
The High Court ought not to have passed these directions without ascertaining the demand and supply of sand.
Court failed to appreciate that all the quarries are being run by the State Government after obtaining environmental clearances from the Concerned Authorities under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and therefore sand quarrying cannot be termed as illegal, the SLP said and prayed for quashing the impugned order and an interim stay of its operation....