"Nothing but an organised crime against society": Madras HC takes serious view of illegal mining, dismisses batch of 36 bail pleas
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"Nothing but an organised crime against society": Madras HC takes serious view of illegal mining, dismisses batch of 36 bail pleas

"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.

Meera Emmanuel

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."

"... this Court is of the firm opinion that the discretionary powers (to grant bail) cannot be extended to persons indulging in illegal sand mining, smuggling and theft of sand and minerals."
Madras High Court

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,

"Amidst the national lockdown declared and the whole Country being under lockdown mode, there seems to be no lockdown for sand offenders. This Court took note that most of the industries and businesses in the country and especially the construction industry were under lockdown, whereas the illicit sand mining industry had worked overtime. The surge of cases registered shows that the business of illegal quarrying/mining, theft and smuggling of sand and minerals had happened rampantly in all Districts unabated without any control, resulting in grave damage and degradation to the environment and also indepletion of natural resources."

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.

"The offenders with scant regard to the law enforcers and orders of this court continue with the illegality at the cost of heavily degrading the ecology and environment since it is well settled in their minds that they will be able to get anticipatory/adcance bail by complying with any stringent condition with ease and get out."
Madras High Court

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,

"It is an open secret that various mafias are controlling the illegal business at various locations. By this cartelisation, not only the State's exchequer, the entire society is affected. In a way the illegal business is nothing but an organised crime against the society and each individual offender plays an active role in the organised crime. As stated earlier it is not that the individual offender is not aware about the rippling effect the illegal act causes to the environment and ecology. The greed and selfish attitude of the offenders are increasing day by day. The Courts cannot keep the eyes and ears closed."

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:

Bala @ Balasubramani and ors v. State - Madras HC - September 3.pdf
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