The Delhi high court on 2 February refused to stay the Centre’s decision to grant a mining lease toEssar Steel in Chhattisgarh on a petition by the state-run National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).
A bench headed by Justice B.D. Ahmed also asked NMDC to approach a high-powered committee on disputes for redressal of its grievance, saying this was the appropriate authority in such matters.
NMDC, the country’s premier iron ore producer, had challenged the Union government’s decision to approve the grant of a two-year mining lease in the Bailadila area of Dantewada district to Essar (Chhattisgarh) Ltd for two years.
Asking the committee to hear the matter expeditiously, Justice Ahmed said it should be first referred to a high-powered committee of disputes. “No such clearance has been taken by the party (NMDC),” the bench said, adding that NMDC would have to immediately apply to a committee for a permission to go ahead with this matter in the court.On the request of NMDC counsel Rajiv Dhawan for expeditious disposal of the application, the bench said, “It is expected that the committee will dispose the application as expeditiously as possible.”
NMDC was granted a mining lease for iron ore in the Bailadila range, covering 3,308 hectares, for 30 years up to August 2007. It had urged the state government for a lease renewal, 12 months before this was to end,the petition said. While the Centre granted it approval for prospecting of iron ore over 83 hectares of forest land for two years, the state government passed an order of lapsing of lease of NMDC on 7 June 2006.
However, the state government on the other hand, despite Centre’s according approval to NMDC, passed an order of lapsing of lease of NMDC on 7 June 2006 and simultaneously the state government notified the land as available for grant of mining, the PSU said.
It sought a review, but the Centre in December 2006 approved Chhattisgarh government’s recommendation for grant of lease of land to Essar Steel . NMDC then moved court.