New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed Obulapuram Mining Co. Pvt. Ltd (OMC), owned by Karnataka’s influential Gali Reddy brothers, to resume mining in undisputed areas in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.
The apex court order brings relief to OMC after its mining operations were stalled on 22 March by a previous court order.
The court, while imposing the earlier ban, had also appointed an expert committee headed by the Survey of India to examine the mining areas and investigate allegations of large-scale encroachment of reserve forest areas by OMC.
On Monday, the court, while allowing the resumption of mining, clarified that the operations should be done 150 metres away from the Karnataka border and that it could be temporarily stopped by the Survey of India while studying the region for the demarcation of the boundary with Andhra Pradesh state.
The mining leases of the Reddy brothers run along the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border.
The apex court in its order also directed Karnataka to appoint officials from the forest and mining departments to assist the committee in demarcating the inter-state boundary. The court has asked the committee to complete the final survey within two months.
Earlier, the Survey of India-led expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court found major discrepancies in mining lease sketches and had suggested in its report submitted to the apex court on 30 April that no mining will take place till the boundary was demarcated afresh.
The court had reserved its order on 5 May.
Attorney general G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government, opposed any resumption of mining till the survey work was completed. Since there were no reference points, the stay should not be lifted, he said.
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for OMC, asked the court to allow mining activities at least in the undisputed areas. He argued that the boundary demarcation would take time and OMC should not suffer just because that.
“We feel that justice has been done. The Survey of India-led expert committee had found no evidence of illegal mining by OMC,” Rohatgi said after the verdict was announced. “The committee found discrepancies in mining lease sketches because of lack of proper demarcation of the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border. But this was none of our fault.”
The Reddys comprise G. Karunakara Reddy, the eldest brother and Karnataka’s revenue minister; G. Janardhana Reddy, the state’s tourism minister; and G. Somashekar Reddy, the youngest, who is chairman of the Karnataka Milk Federation.
The apex court had earlier banned mining operations on a special petition by the Andhra Pradesh government, which had challenged the 26 February ruling of the Andhra Pradesh high court that quashed a ban on the Reddys’ mining operations by the state government.
On 25 November, the Andhra Pradesh industries and commerce department had restrained OMC from carrying out any mining activity involving the extraction of iron ore in the Bellary reserve forest in Anantapur district.
The Reddy brothers are close to the family of the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister. His death late last year in a helicopter crash precipitated a crisis in Andhra Pradesh, when his family’s supporters insisted that his son Jaganmohan Reddy be named chief minister in his place.
However, the Congress party named K. Rosiah as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
The November order from the Andhra Pradesh industries and commerce department came shortly after this appointment.