M/s Haryana Mining Company vs State of Haryana & Ors

M/s Haryana Mining Company vs State of Haryana & Ors - Supreme Court Case


Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


Non-Reportable
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
Civil Appeal No. 3795 of 2022
(Arising out of SLP (C) No.16549 of 2021)
M/s Haryana Mining Company .... Appellant(s)
Versus
State of Haryana & Ors. ….Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
L. NAGESWARA RAO, J.
Leave granted.
1. This Appeal has been filed against the judgment of
the Punjab and Haryana High Court dated 06.09.2021
dismissing the writ petition filed by the Appellant, which
sought to challenge the order dated 10.01.2020 whereby
the mining lease granted to it was terminated by the
Director General, Mines and Geology, Haryana
(hereinafter, the “Termination Order”) and the order
1
dated 11.08.2021 by which the appeal filed against the
Termination Order was dismissed by the Appellate
Authority (hereinafter, the “Appellate Order”).
2. The facts necessary for disposal of this Appeal are
detailed hereinafter. The Appellant participated in an eauction conducted by the State Government for grant of
mining lease of “stone along with associated minor
minerals” in an area of 6.70 hectares, falling in Khasra
No. 7, Village Garhi, District Mahendargarh. The bid of
the Appellant was accepted and a Letter of Intent dated
24.07.2015 was issued to the Appellant. Pursuant to
this, a lease deed was executed between the Appellant
and the State Government on 11.04.2016. The
Appellant commenced mining operations on 15.06.2016,
after the mining area was demarcated on 11.05.2016.
Demarcation of the mining area was further conducted
on 23.02.2017 and 21.08.2018. On 17.12.2018, another
demarcation of the mining area was done in view of
certain complaints against the Appellant of illegal mining
conducted by exceeding the permitted area of mining.
2
3. Thereafter, a complaint was preferred by the
Sarpanch of Village Khudana, adjoining Village Garhi, by
way of resolution dated 08.01.2019, alleging illegal
mining being carried out by the Appellant on a hillock
next to the mining area leased to the Appellant. On
04.02.2019, the District Mining Officer submitted a letter
to the Director, Mines and Geology, bringing to his notice
the earlier complaint filed against the Appellant in
October, 2018 and the subsequent complaints preferred
by the Sarpanch of Village Khudana on 08.01.2019 and
25.01.2019, alleging illegal mining by the Appellant
beyond the leased area. An enquiry was conducted by
the Additional Deputy Commissioner-cum-Nodal Officer,
District Illegal Mining Observation Team, Narnaul. A
report was submitted by the said team on 25.02.2019
(hereinafter, the “ADC Report”), in which it was
observed that illegal mining was found to have taken
place in Khasra Nos. 366-367 in the Aravali Forest area.
However, it could not be proved as to who committed
the said excavation.
3
4. On 13.03.2019, the Director, Mines and Geology
issued a notice directing the Appellant to show cause as
to why the mining lease not be terminated prematurely
for having breached the terms and conditions of the
lease. On 27.03.2019, a reply was submitted by the
Appellant to the said show-cause notice denying the
allegations. The mining operations of the Appellant were
suspended by the Assistant Mining Engineer on
13.12.2019, even before a decision was taken pursuant
to the said show-cause notice, on account of nonpayment of dead rent and other sums. A fresh
demarcation was conducted by a team led by the Mining
Officer, Narnaul on 15.11.2019, who observed in his
report that there was some mining outside the leased
area. He also recorded the statements of the villagers
and representatives of the Appellant present during the
demarcation, who stated that this mining had been done
by earlier contractors.
5. By an order dated 10.01.2020, the Director General,
Mines and Geology, terminated the mining lease of the
Appellant, aggrieved by which an appeal was filed. The
4
Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal on 07.05.2021.
Challenging the order of the Appellate Authority, the
Appellant filed a writ petition before the Punjab &
Haryana High Court, which was disposed of on
03.08.2021 setting aside the order of the Appellate
Authority dated 07.05.2021 and directing the Appellate
Authority to decide the matter afresh, after affording an
opportunity of hearing to the Appellant. Later, by order
dated 11.08.2021, the appeal filed by the Appellant was
dismissed. Challenging the Termination Order and the
Appellate Order, the Appellant filed a writ petition in the
Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was dismissed by
the impugned order dated 06.09.2021. Hence, this
Appeal.
6. The High Court dismissed the writ petition by
placing reliance on a memo dated 04.02.2019 from the
Mining Officer, Narnaul, who, according to the High
Court, found the Appellant indulging in illegal mining
outside the leased area, even after the demarcation
conducted on 17.12.2018. The contention of the
Appellant that illegal mining was carried out by M/s Hari
5
Har Mining Company was rejected by the High Court as
mines of M/s Hari Har Mining Company were lying closed
in the period from 01.05.2018 to 05.02.2019 on account
of suspension and subsequent termination of their
mining lease. Further, the High Court took note of the
statement of the counsel appearing for the Appellant
before the Appellate Authority, who, on being
questioned, had replied that there was no other
approach to the area alleged to be under illegal mining
except through the area leased to the Appellant. The
High Court was of the opinion that the scope of judicial
review of orders passed by quasi-judicial authorities is
limited and findings of fact cannot be interfered with.
7. Mr. Nidhesh Gupta, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the Appellant, submitted that the
Termination Order suffers from complete non-application
of mind. Even the Appellate Authority has not
considered the contention of the Appellant that there is
absolutely no material to implicate the Appellant for
undertaking illegal mining operations outside the leased
area. On the other hand, he argued that the reports
6
placed on record were totally inconclusive and there are
no findings recorded in any demarcation report that the
Appellant was responsible for any illegal mining outside
the leased area. Our attention was drawn to the ADC
Report, which records that the representative of the
Sarpanch, Village Khudana had, in the enquiry
proceeding on 12.02.2019, made a statement to the
effect that the Appellant was carrying out mining in its
allocated area whereas M/s Hari Har Mining Company
was carrying out illegal mining in Garhi area. Further,
the ADC Report notes that in the enquiry proceeding on
25.02.2019, the Sarpanch, Village Khudana deposed that
he had filed the complaint on the basis of complaints
moved by residents of the village and he did not have
any sound proof on the allegation. The learned Senior
Counsel submitted that the High Court committed a
serious error in not allowing the writ petition, in spite of
absence of any evidence of illegal mining on the part of
the Appellant.
8. Ms. Noopur Singhal, learned counsel appearing for
the Respondent, supported the findings recorded by the
7
High Court in the impugned judgment by arguing that
there were several complaints preferred by villagers
pertaining to illegal mining by the Appellant outside the
leased area. The report dated 04.02.2019 of the Mining
Officer, Narnaul would show that the Appellant is guilty
of illegal mining. She further argued that the Appellant
cannot shift his liability to M/s Hari Har Mining Company,
who had completely stopped mining operations in that
period. As the Termination Order was passed after
giving sufficient opportunity to the Appellant and also
after taking into account the material on record, the High
Court was justified in not interfering with the said orders.
9. We note that the Termination Order refers to a
demarcation report of 17.12.2018 for the purpose of
reaching the conclusion that the Appellant was indulging
in illegal mining. A perusal of the said demarcation
report would show that there was nothing mentioned
therein about illegal mining carried out by the Appellant.
According to the said report dated 17.12.2018, the Field
Kanungo conducted the demarcation proceedings in the
presence of the members of the Gram Panchayat and
8
after perusing the revenue records. The Surveyor, with
the help of the Differential Global Positioning System
machine, verified the marking stones and flags at each
corner and side and found them to be correct. The ADC
Report, referred to in the Termination Order, concludes
that it could not ascertain as to who was involved in the
illegal mining in Khasra Nos. 366 and 367. There is also
a reference in the Termination Order to a memo dated
20.11.2019 of the Mining Officer, Narnaul, by which a
fresh demarcation report dated 15.11.2019 was sent. In
the said demarcation report, it has been categorically
stated that “no fresh mining was found beyond the
pillar”. This has also been recorded in the Termination
Order. There is no other reference to either a
demarcation report or any other enquiry report of any
officer from the Department of Mines and Geology or the
Department of Forest, that would indicate any illegal
mining conducted by the Appellant beyond the leased
area.
10. It is relevant to refer to a report submitted by the
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Regional Division, Forest
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Complex, Mahendargarh on 15.10.2019 to the Forest
Conservator, Gurugram. An enquiry was conducted by
the DFO pursuant to a complaint made against the
Appellant to the National Green Tribunal, which directed
the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Haryana to
look into the matter and take appropriate action, by an
order dated 16.04.2019. In the said report, the DFO held
that the alleged mining was not proved. After referring
to the ADC Report, a letter sent by the Sarpanch, Gram
Panchayat, Village Garhi to the Deputy Commissioner,
Narnaul to the effect that the Appellant was never
involved in illegal mining and the written statement of
the Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Village Khudana to the
effect that he had no sound proof with respect to his
complaint against the Appellant, the DFO concluded that
the allegation of illegal mining against the Appellant is
not proved. Curiously, we find that there is no reference
to this report submitted by the DFO dated 15.10.2019 in
the Termination Order.
11. As stated above, the High Court set aside the order
passed by the Appellate Authority dated 26.04.2021 and
10
remanded the matter back for fresh consideration. In
the order dated 11.08.2021, the Appellate Authority
referred to the report from the Mining Officer dated
04.02.2019 to conclude that there were clear signs of
fresh mining from the photographs sent along with the
report. According to the Appellate Authority, illegal
mining by the Appellant was established from the
demarcation report dated 17.12.2018 and was
evidenced even after the ADC Report. The Appellate
Authority dismissed the Appeal on the ground that the
alleged illegal mining was carried out in an area adjacent
to the leased area of the Appellant and in a period where
mining by M/s Hari Har Mining Company was shut. The
statement made on behalf of the Appellant that M/s Hari
Har Mining Company was carrying out illegal mining
operations was considered by the Appellate Authority as
an attempt to create confusion.
12. We have already referred to the demarcation report
dated 17.12.2018 and the report of the Mining Officer
dated 04.02.2019, on the basis of which no conclusion
can be reached about the Appellant indulging in any
11
illegal mining operations. The Termination Order and
the Appellate Order are arbitrary and suffer from the vice
of unreasonableness. Relevant material has not been
taken into consideration before the Termination Order
was passed. There is no mention of the DFO’s report
dated 15.10.2019, which considered the reports relied on
by the Director General, Mines and Geology and
absolved the Appellant of indulging in any illegal mining
activity on the ground that no evidence was found
against the Appellant. There is no other material against
the Appellant in support of the allegation that the
Appellant was engaged in illegal mining in the area
adjacent to the leased site. In our view, the High Court
committee an error in dismissing the writ petition
without examining as to whether there was an iota of
evidence to justify the Termination Order. We are aware
that constitutional courts, in exercise of their power of
judicial review, would not examine sufficiency of
evidence. At the same time, it is well-settled that
interference is warranted if it is found that the weight of
the evidence was opposed to the conclusion recorded or
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there was no evidence at all, rendering the conclusion
ex-facie erroneous or perverse1
.
13. For the aforementioned reasons, we set aside the
order dated 10.01.2020 passed by the Director General,
Mines and Geology, Haryana, the order dated
11.08.2021 passed by the Appellate Authority and the
impugned judgment of the High Court dated 06.09.2021.
14. The Appeal is allowed.
.....................................J.
 [ L. NAGESWARA RAO ]
 .....................................
 [ B.R. GAVAI ]
New Delhi,
May 9, 2022.
1 Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra (1999) 1 SCC 759; High Court
of A.P. v. Nirmala K.R. Dayavathi (2015) 15 SCC 681
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