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SC: No Mining Activity around Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve

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By Sumit Saxena

Published : May 15, 2024, 9:12 PM IST

A bench of the Supreme Court (SC) comprising justices BR Gavai, Sandeep Mehta and SVN Bhatti restrained the mining operations within a 1 km radius of the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) at Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve. The apex court asked how there can be mining in one km of critical tiger habitat.

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Representational Image (ETV Bharat)

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Wednesday said no mining activities can be carried out around Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve. A bench comprising justices BR Gavai, Sandeep Mehta and SVN Bhatti restrained the mining operations within a 1 km radius of the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH).

“Continuation of any mining activities within the radius of 1 Km of the boundaries of the critical tiger reserves (CTR) would be in contempt of our orders dated April 26, 2023. With this observation, we do not find that any specific direction is required for the state of Rajasthan to forthwith prohibit mining activities within the radius of 1 KM from the boundary of the critical tiger habitat (CTH) (tiger reserves)”, said Justice Gavai, pronouncing the order.

It was argued before the court that CTH is to protect the Sariska wildlife sanctuary. The bench said that the stand taken by the state is contrary to statutory provisions, as interpreted by this court. The state's counsel clarified that there is no mining in CTH.

The apex court also asked the state government to formulate a closure plan and take necessary steps for compliance with court’s orders and scheduled the matter for further hearing in July, 2024, for reporting compliance.

During the hearing, the bench said, “How can there be mining in one km of critical tiger habitat?...there is a judgment of this court that there cannot be any mining in the radius of 1 Km from the protected area. If they (mines) are within 400m or 600m, then they would have to go”. “There is one mine which is either 40m or 50m, 25m…”, said Justice Mehta.

Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Rajasthan government, the critical tiger habitat is now 881 km, which includes the Sariska wildlife sanctuary of 492 Km, 389 Km is additional and there is also a buffer area. “All of the mining leases are of 1970 and out of this list (of 110) only 68 are working. All 68 are outside 1 Km from the sanctuary, outside the CTH, outside the buffer and outside the proposed eco sensitive zone notification, draft notification which has been published. It is only 68 that are working and they took the environmental clearance…”, submitted Bhati.

Justice Gavai said, “after our judgment, nothing within 1 Km….judgment is very clear 1 Km no mining. Justice Aniruddha Bose had kept it 10 Km (citing the modification to the judgment in which the radius was brought down to 1 Km)…”. Bhati said if taken from CTH then these mines have to be closed. “CTH stands on a higher pedestal (than mining)…if you want we can go back to 10 Km”, said Justice Gavai.

The bench was informed that the mine owners are also before the court. However, Justice Gavai said if the state is acting in accordance with court orders’ then who can claim damages? Our order is very clear that we will not permit any mining activity within the radius of 1 Km. The bench told the state government to close the mines within 6 months or so. Bhati requested the court to allow her to come back in the matter.

The apex court was hearing an application for directions to Rajasthan government to stop illegal mining activities in Sariska wildlife sanctuary without approval of the National Board for Wildlife and within a 1 km area of the CTH - a protected area of Sariska Tiger Reserve.

It was alleged that multiple mining companies were flouting various directions issued by the apex court regarding mining activities in the eco-sensitive zones, which includes the CTH areas of Sariska Tiger Reserve.

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