Karnataka High Court upholds state ban on iron ore exports

Bangalore, Nov 19 (IANS) The Karnataka High Court Friday upheld the twin orders of the state government banning export of iron ore and dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by about 40 affected mining firms in the state.

The government issued the orders July 26 and July 28 in an effort to curb illegal mining of iron ore in the state for export, especially to China, where demand for low-grade iron-ore in the form of fines and pellets is huge.

By its July 26 order, the state government prohibited export of iron ore from 10 ports across the state, and by July 28 order it stopped issuing mineral dispatch permits for transporting iron ore meant for export.

‘We have found no infirmity in the impugned orders, on any of the grounds raised before us. We, therefore hereby, uphold the orders dated 26.07.2010 and 28.07.2010. Thus viewed, all the writ petitions are hereby dismissed,’ the division bench of Chief Justice J.S. Kheher and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer said in its judgment.

The bench, however, directed the state government to put in place within six months of issuing orders (July 26-28) necessary measures to curb illegal mining activity, including transportation and storage of iron ore for export.

The court has accepted the affidavit of state Advocate General Harnahalli Ashok for granting six months, i.e., up to Jan 28, 2011, to the state government for putting in place these measures.

‘We, therefore, hope and expect that the state government would expedite the implementation of the measures for preventing illegal mining, transportation and storage of iron ore in the state. In case, the state government fails to implement the measures, within a reasonable time (six months), the intention of the state government, may itself be subject to suspicion,’ the bench observed.

Finding no merit in the writ petitions against the ban order, the court said it was satisfied with the submissions of the advocate general that the sole aim and object of the order was to eradicate illegal activities relating to mining, transportation and storage of iron ore.

Noting that the state government issued the blanket orders without first distinguishing the wrong-doers from those who are innocent, the bench observed that the government could not adversely affect the civil rights of all those who are engaged in the export of iron ore for an unlimited time.

‘For, law supports only legitimate causes, and not, an abuse of the process of law. It may well be legitimate for the state government to take about six months, to put in place the contemplated measures, for regulating activities connected with mining of iron ore, in the state,’ the judges pointed out.

As a note of caution, the court observed that it was not uncommon in today’s world to say something but to desire just the opposite.

‘The state government having taken such strong steps cannot hereafter be heard to say that illegal mining related operations are still going on in the state. Having chosen to do as it desired, after the regulatory measures have been put in place, the state government shall have to bear the responsibility of ensuring that, henceforth, no illegal mining related activities are carried out in the state,’ the order mentioned.

If the purpose of curbing illegal mining was achieved within the time expressed by the advocate general, the court said it was of the view that the ban order would be reasonable and legitimate.

‘And, in case there is any lapse, the blame thereof must squarely rest on the shoulders of the state government. We also wish and hope that action initiated in respect of unauthorised activities relating to mining of iron-ore shall be brought to a logical conclusion at the earliest, so that those who have violated the provisions of law, are appropriately dealt with,’ the judgment added.

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