The latest judgement that has come to the line is Ramakant Dwivedi Vs. Rafiq Ahmad and ORS/ the corams of this judgement are Anil R. Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel. The date of the judgement was 4 january 2016.

Leave granted. This appeal has been preferred against order dated 18th June, 2015 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in PIL No.35233 of 2015 granting an interim order against excavation of minor minerals by the appellant in respect of lease executed in his favour on 17th October, 2013. In the impugned order, the High Court observed that lease granted to the appellant was in violation of its judgments dated 29th January, 2013 in Nar Narain Mishra versus The State of U.P.[1] and dated 12th September, 2014 Sukhan Singh versus State of U.P.[2]. In Nar Narain Mishra, the operative part of the High Court order is as follows : “In the result, all the writ petitions are disposed with the following directions :

The prayers made by the petitioners/applicants for considering their applications for renewal of their mining leases which were pending on 31/5/2012, and the applications for grant of fresh leases which were pending on 31/5/2012 are refused.

The Government Order dated 26/7/2012 and all consequent steps taken thereunder are quashed.

Notices issued by the District Magistrate inviting applications by E- tendering consequent to the Government Order dated 31/5/2012, cannot be allowed to be finalized and are quashed with liberty to the respondents to issue fresh notice in accordance with law. Parties shall bear their own costs.”

According to the appellant, on 27th April, 2013, the pre-existing lease in his favour which expired on 18th November, 2010, was renewed for further period of three years upto 26th April, 2016. Approval was granted on 14th March, 2011 and environmental clearance was granted on 21st September, 2012. It is submitted that order of the Government dated 31st May, 2012 was not applicable and was later withdrawn on 22nd October, 2014 and thus, the lease was valid. This submission though also supported by the State, cannot be accepted. The High Court has rightly held that the renewal was in pursuance of the Government Order dated 26th February, 2013 which itself was in conflict with the order of the High Court in Nar Narain Mishra (supra) as reiterated in Sukhan Singh (supra). In view of order of the High Court dated 29th January, 2013 in Nar Narain Mishra (supra) all pending applications as on 31st May, 2012 stood rejected. In the case of the appellant, environmental clearance was granted on 21st September, 2012 and renewal was granted on 27th April, 2013. Orders of the High Court in Nar Narain Mishra and Sukhan Singh (supra) which are not under challenge clearly debarred the grant of lease under Chapter II after 31st May, 2012. This aspect has been dealt with in greater detail in Civil Appeal Nos.4845-4846 of 2015 titled Sulekhan Singh & Co. versus State of U.P. with which the present appeal was tagged, which is being separately decided today. Stand of the State, to the contrary, can also not be appreciated. Reference may be made to the finding recorded by the High Court in the impugned order: “A Division Bench in the case of Nar Narain Mishra v. State of U.P. and others reported in 2013 (2) ADJ 166, after interpreting the Government Order dated 31.5.2012 recorded as principle of law, that once notification has been published by the State Government in exercise of powers under Rule 23 of the Rules 1963, for vacant areas being available for grant of leases under Chapter IV of Rules, 1963, no grant/renewal on the pending applications can be made, after 31.5.2012. The State was not satisfied with the legal position so explained. It came out with a Government Order dated 26.2.2013, which provided that pending applications, for renewal/grant in respect of which orders of approval have already been made by the State Government or by the competent authority shall not be controlled by the judgment in the case of Nar Narain Mishra (Supra) such cases may be processed further.

This Government Order dated 26.2.2013 came up for consideration before another Division Bench of this Court in the case of Sukkhan Singh v. State of U.P. and others reported in 2014 (11) ADJ 89. The Division Bench has held that the Government Order dated 26.2.2013 cannot deviate from the legal position, as has been explained in the case of Nar Narain Mishra (Supra).

It, therefore, follows that no application which was pending on 31.5.2012 can be proceeded with for grant/renewal of lease under Chapter II/VI of the Minor Minerals Concession Rules, 1963 after 31.5.2012. The grant, if any, after 31.5.2012 can only be made under Chapter IV of the Rules of 1963 Le. by e-auction or tendering. The State and its Officers have shown little or no respect to the orders of this Court.

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Prima facie, we find no substance in the contention raised. In our opinion, once a notification dated 31.5.2012 had been issued declaring that all the vacant areas are available for grant of lease only under Chapter IV, no lease subsequent thereto under Chapter VI could be executed. The area remains vacant till the execution of the lease deed. The Execution of the lease in the facts of the case has taken place after 31.5.2012. Mere grant/approval in our opinion will not alter the legal position.

The concern of the Court is both, in respect of best use of natural resources by the State as well as for avoiding the degradation of environment, especially near the river beds.”

  1. Last submission on behalf of the appellant is that on 22nd October, 2014 the State of U.P. has declared that the mining leases will be given under Chapter II and Order dated 31st May, 2012 was withdrawn. In the present case, lease was granted in violation of judgment of the High Court as already noted. Subsequent withdrawal of the Government order dated 31st May, 2012 could not benefit the appellant as on the date of grant of lease in favour of the appellant, the said Government order was operative. 6. In these circumstances, we do not find any ground to interfere with the impugned interim order and leave the issue on merits to be finally decided by the High Court. 7. The appeal is dismissed.
  2. The plea of the appellants that they had acquired a vested right prior to G.O. dated 31st May, 2012 cannot be accepted. Order dated 31st May, 2012 was issued by the State of U.P. to bring about transparency and to safeguard the Government revenue and was consistent with the decisions of this Court in Article 14 of the Constitution. The validity thereof was upheld by the High Court in Nar Narain Mishra (supra). The said judgment applied to the mineral in question as specifically laid down by the High Court. The High Court upheld the stand of the State that pendency of application did not create any right in favour of the appellants. All applications pending as on 31st May, 2012 stood rejected including the application of the appellants. Admittedly, the appellants did not make an application after the changed policy dated 22nd October, 2014 and thus the said G.O. had no application to the present case. We are not called upon to decide validity of order dated 22nd October, 2014 in cancelling order dated 31st May, 2012. This question can be gone into as and when raised.

  3. In Hind Stone (supra), this Court observed:

“13. Another submission of the learned counsel in connection with the consideration of applications for renewal was that applications made sixty days or more before the date of GOMs No. 1312 (December 2, 1977) should be dealt with as if Rule 8-C had not come into force. It was also contended that even applications for grant of leases made long before the date of GOMs No. 1312 should be dealt with as if Rule 8-C had not come into force. The submission was that it was not open to the government to keep applications for the grant of leases and applications for renewal pending for a long time and then to reject them on the basis of Rule 8-C notwithstanding the fact that the applications had been made long prior to the date on which Rule 8-C came into force. While it is true that such applications should be dealt with within a reasonable time, it cannot on that account be said that the right to have an application disposed of in a reasonable time clothes an applicant for a lease with a right to have the application disposed of on the basis of the rules in force at the time of the making of the application. No one has a vested right to the grant or renewal of a lease and none can claim a vested right to have an application for the grant or renewal of a lease dealt with in a particular way, by applying particular provisions. In the absence of any vested rights in anyone, an application for a lease has necessarily to be dealt with according to the rules in force on the date of the disposal of the application despite the fact that there is a long delay since the making of the application. We are, therefore, unable to accept the submission of the learned counsel that applications for the grant of renewal of leases made long prior to the date of GOMs No. 1312 should be dealt with as if Rule 8-C did not exist.

  1. Reiterating the decision in Hind Stone (supra), this Court in Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd. vs. Union of India[9] held as under:

“132. ……Minerals—like rivers and forests—are a valuable natural resource. Minerals constitute our national wealth and are vital raw material for infrastructure, capital goods and basic industries. The conservation, preservation and intelligent utilisation of minerals is not only the need of the day but is also very important in the interest of mankind and succeeding generations. Management of minerals should be in a way that helps in the country’s economic development and which also leaves for future generations to conserve and develop the natural resources of the nation in the best possible way. For the proper development of economy and industry, the exploitation of natural resources cannot be permitted indiscriminately; rather the nation’s natural wealth has to be used judiciously so that it may not be exhausted within a few years.

133.…………..No person has any fundamental right to claim that he should be granted mining lease or prospecting licence or permitted reconnaissance operation in any land belonging to the Government. It is apt to quote the following statement of O. Chinnappa Reddy, J. in Hind Stone (SCC p. 213, para 6) albeit in the context of minor mineral,

“6. … The public interest which induced Parliament to make the declaration contained in Section 2 … has naturally to be the paramount consideration in all matters concerning the regulation of mines and the development of minerals”.

He went on to say: (Hind Stone case, SCC p. 217, para 10)

“10. … The statute with which we are concerned, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, is aimed … at the conservation and the prudent and discriminating exploitation of minerals. Surely, in the case of a scarce mineral, to permit exploitation by the State or its agency and to prohibit exploitation by private agencies is the most effective method of conservation and prudent exploitation. If you want to conserve for the future, you must prohibit in the present.”

  1. It was further observed :

“182.7. The doctrine of promissory estoppel cannot be invoked in abstract. When it is sought to be invoked, the court must consider all aspects including the result sought to be achieved and the public good at large. The fundamental principle of equity must forever be present to the mind of the court. Absence of it must not hold the Government or the public authority to its promise, assurance or representation.”

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188.3 Where the decision of an authority is founded in public interest as per executive policy or law, the court would be reluctant to interfere with such decision by invoking the doctrine of legitimate expectation. The legitimate expectation doctrine cannot be invoked to fetter changes in administrative policy if it is in the public interest to do so.”

  1. In view of the above, we do not find any merit in these appeals. We also do not approve the stand of the State of U.P. in supporting the appellants, as already mentioned.
  • Accordingly, the appeals are dismissed. Interim order granted by this Court stands vacated. The State will assess the extent of pecuniary advantage taken by the appellants under the interim order and recover the same from the appellants.

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