SC seeks report from state on mining fund use

New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) Thursday directed the Odisha government to submit a reply on the suggestions made by lessees regarding the utilisation of funds recovered as penalty from erring mining companies.

A three-judge bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta asked the representative of the state government to file a reply on the matter.

“We would like to make it clear that the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and utilisation of funds are not adversarial. This was also clarified by Gopal Subramanium, learned senior counsel. The state government should interpret the suggestions in that spirit. The suggestions have been accepted by Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel for the petitioner and by the learned Amicus,” observed the bench.

“Learned counsel for the state of Odisha states that she would like to seek instructions in this regard and will revert within two weeks,” the bench observed.

Earlier in the court, the lessees have made suggestions on outlays and projects to be initiated by Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation (OMBADC).

The counsels appearing for the lessees stated that as per the SC judgement, the state government has recovered around Rs 13,990 crore as fine from the erring mining companies. This amount should be utilised for establishment of primary healthcare centres, eye clinics, specialised healthcare facilities, education, sanitation and provisions of mid-day meals in the mining affected areas, he added.

“We suggested that the amount should be utilised properly in the mining affected areas of Sundargarh, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj on priority basis. The state government should utilise the remaining amount for development of other parts of the state.” said advocate Naveen Kumar.

“A competent IAS officer, with experience in tribal areas, must be appointed to administer the SPV and take decisions regarding the expenditure. The board of directors of OMBADC may be supervised by a retired judge of the Orissa High Court. Further, the OMBADC may be directed to submit monthly progress and audit reports to the Supreme Court,” the lessees suggested in the court.

“The state government in its affidavit had stated that more than 21,000 pucca houses were provided to the tribal and drinking water facilities will be created in 691 villages.” Naveen Kumar added.