Orissa HC directs state government to set up special courts for cases of illegal mining

The Orissa High Court has asked the state government to establish special courts to conduct the speedy trials of offences related to illegal mining in the region.

Underlining the necessity of such courts, a single judge bench of Justice S K Sahoo said, “This court expects the state government to take necessary effective steps in that regard at the earliest in consonance with the provision under section 30-B of the Mines & Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 for constitution of special courts for speedy trial of offences.”  Justice Sahoo also said Odisha benefits from the revenue generated by mining and an increasing number of cases reported under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act, which remain unresolved, can adversely affect the revenues.  The direction was given while adjudicating an anticipatory bail application filed in a case of theft of minor minerals, registered under the MMDR Act at the Jakhapura police station and pending in the court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class.

A report submitted by district judges pertaining to the pending cases under MMDR Act has said 943 such cases are pending in the subordinate courts. The highest number of cases are registered in Sundargarh, Keonjhar, and Mayurbhanj. Justice Sahoo that amendments brought in to the MMDR Act in 2015 had stricter provisions, but with the high numbers of cases pending in the state, the new provisions are not being implemented but the state must do so now. The amendments in 2015 to check illegal mining prescribed higher penalties up to Rs 5 lakh per hectare and imprisonment up to five years.

When contacted a senior official from the steel and mines department said, “The state government is positive on establishing a special court for illegal mining cases. This has been conveyed to the court as well. But it is too soon to discuss the modalities.”

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