Chennai, Jun 17: Madras High Court has directed the Nilgiris District Collector, who appeared on summons before the First Bench in connection with illegal quarrying and mining, to take effective steps to stop it in the hill station.
Passing orders on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the bench comprising Chief Justice A K Ganguly and Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla, directed Collector Anandrao Vishnu Patil, to personally monitor and take strict steps to ensure that no illegal mining was carried out in the Nilgiris, and protect the properties of the state.
The PIL, filed by an advocate, G Rajendran, contended that quarrying should be totally banned in the hill areas and all illegal activities be brought to an end immediately.
When the matter was taken up for hearing, the court directed the District Collector and the Deputy Director of Geology and Mining to file a status report.
Disagreeing with the Collector's submission that the loss caused to the exchequer by the illegal mining and quarrying activities in Niligiris District was about Rs 86.1 lakh, the bench said, ''In our view, the loss would be much more. We are of the view that the loss, which has been stated in the affidavit, suffers from improper assessment. The loss has not been properly estimated.'' Last week, on perusing the report, the bench said it was not satisfied with the details and directed the District Collector and Deputy Director, Geology and Mining, to be present in the court on June 16.
The Collector, in his counter affidavit had detailed 15 cases of illicit quarrying involving 8,617 lorry loads of blue metal. He said all the cases would be reviewed by the district administration and that officials responsible for levying low penalty would be identified and action would be taken against them.
'Severe action will be taken against officials, who have failed to impound vehicles and materials,'' the Collector submitted.
While recording this submission, the judges permitted the Collector to take appropriate steps to proceed against erring officials in accordance with law, and posted the matter to September 15 for further hearing.