Third day of the Goa mining case in the Supreme Court. Prashant was present, but AG Goa was not found in the Court room the entire day. Hearings were halted at 4 pm, and will be resumed next Tuesday. Court has indicated it will hear the matter till the end and pass judgement. Good news for all.
First thing the Court did in the morning was to pass an order transferring around 10-12 writ petitions filed by mining companies and lease holders in the Bombay High Court (Panaji bench) against the Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry Report to the present bench to be heard and disposed of with the Goa Foundation petition. The Bombay High Court was directed to produce the record of all the petitions in the Supreme Court in one week.
Advocate appearing for Goa Paryavaran Suraksha Samittee (GPSS) informed the Court his client had filed over one hundred claims against over 100 mining companies for damage done by their individual mines before the NGT. Some of the companies had filed appeals against the NGT order entertaining his petition there, and they were listed in the office report of WP No.435. He therefore asked to be heard during the proceedings as well. Court assented.
The hearings commenced around 11.30 am with ADN Rao explaining the various findings of the CEC report (you can download the main text of the CEC report from www.goafoundation.org). That took the matter till 4 pm. The Court will resume ADN Rao on Tuesday morning before it goes to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines. Goa government will be heard last.
Lawyer for the Ministry of Environment was present in the morning, but disappeared in the afternoon. Court was extremely annoyed. Asked for officers from both ministries to remain present from Tuesday onwards to answer questions. Ministry of Environment is acting like a cat on a hot tin roof, periodically doing the disappearing act.
Court came down heavily on destruction of bureaucracy. It said earlier the bureaucracy provided the steel frame for governance. Now officers were writing notes to favour decisions. The bureaucracy had been shattered and its backbone demolished. It was referring to the questionable decisions taken with the support of bureaucrats who should have advised their masters properly. It found several legal opinions drafted by Advocates General of Goa which actually legitimised illegal decisions or made illegal actions into legal ones.
As per the findings of the CEC report, 19 environment clearances were issued for mining in the Netravali wildlife sanctuary despite Supreme Court orders; another 23 were granted environment clearances in the 1 km safety zone from the boundaries of wildlife sanctuaries and another 120 had been given environment clearances in the 10 km zone without reference to the National Board of Wildlife despite the Supreme Court’s order dated 4.12.2006 in an earlier Goa Foundation petition No.460/2004. This may turn out to be a massacre. Goa may never be the same again.
Met Christopher Fonseca and Suhas Naik during lunch. Christopher said this bench would pass a judgement that would put right what had gone wrong in the mining industry in the State.
The judges were extremely concerned about the impact of mining around the wildlife sanctuaries and implementation of the provisions of the Wildlife Act, 1971. They asked for the penal provisions to be read, if persons were found damaging the wildlife habitats.
Now we rest till Tuesday next, but it is a pleasure to be in this courtroom. The presiding judge, Justice Patnaik, has a great sense of humour and keeps the people quite entertained and relaxed. Bye for now!