- Apprentice Lawyer
- Legal Jobs
"Amidst the national lockdown declared, there seems to be no lockdown for sand offenders ... the illicit sand mining industry had worked overtime", the Court observed while passing the common order.
Taking a serious view of the rampant rise in illegal mining and sand quarrying activities, the Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of 36 anticipatory bail pleas in cases involving such offences (Bala @ Balasubramani and ors v. State).
The pleas were dismissed after the Court took critical note that,
"... the offenders despite several orders passed by various benches of this court regarding illegal sand mining and knowing fully well about the evil consequences affecting the environment and society at large and the implications thereon are indulging in the offences of illegal quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals. Ignorance and feigned ignorance of law cannot be excused."
While passing the order, Justice AD Jagdish Chandira observed that he was aghast to find a sudden surge as of late in petitions for bail and anticipatory bail in cases involving illegal quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals.
He proceeded to remark,
The Court further pointed out that hefty fines and the imposition of stringent conditions while granting bail for such offences had little deterrent effect on persons carrying out such illegal activities.
"Each day at least 10 to 15 cases are being listed seeking the relief of anticipatory bail in offences of illegal quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals. Despite the offences being non-bailable and this Court imposing stringent conditions, the police are not able to abate the menace of illicit quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals", the Court remarked.
It was also highlighted that the Court has, through a number of judgments, sounded warning alarms over the implications of causing environmental damage. Justice Chandira added a cautionary note himself, stating,
"All of us know what happened to Kerala during the floods a few years ago. Tamil Nadu is not far away."
Apart from expressing anguish that the State's efforts to control illegal mining/quarrying through legislation has not produced any fruitful results, the Bench went on to condemn illegal mining as nothing short of organised crime. The Court said,
Reports of offenders being allowed to roam scot-free, despite the seizure of their vehicles for illegal mining offences also drew the Court's criticism.
The Judge opined that it is apparent that there seemed to be no will on the part of the enforcement agencies to act on the Court's orders in letter and spirit.
"In most of the cases there is no progress after an accused obtains bail and when compared to the cases registered the confiscation and conviction rate till date remains very poor. This court also has a reasonable suspicion that the cases which are registered are too for the purpose of statistics and are only a tip of the iceberg and much more are rolled under the carpet by the law enforcers for reasons best known to them", Justice Chandira remarked.
In this backdrop, the Court proceeded to dismiss the batch anticipatory bail pleas before it while also noting that,
"These cases come within the category of cases of large magnitude affecting and impacting livelihood of a very large number of people knowingly and unknowingly.Though the individual seizure may seem small, small drops make a big ocean."
Before parting with the matter, the Judge also directed the Director General of Police to periodically review the progress of illegal mining/quarrying cases and allied offences in a time-bound manner to ensure that "the final reports are filed within the prescribed time and accused are taken to trial."
Read the common order: