New Delhi: The Supreme Court has appointed Justice Ananga Kumar Patnaik, a retired judge of the apex court, as the head of the oversight body to monitor the utilisation of fund collected from erring mining companies in three districts of Odisha.
A three-judge bench of Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta said Monday that the Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation will have to report to Justice AK Patnaik regarding the utilisation of the fund collected as fine from mining companies. It has to submit its first report in three months and after that every six months.
“Justice AK Patnaik will be the overseer of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). Patnaik may appoint one or two persons for his assistance,” said the bench.
Notably, the state government has collected around Rs 14,000 crore as penalty from lease holders after the Supreme Court judgement dated August 2, 2017.
The SC also made it clear that the state government cannot utilise the fund in other districts. However, Justice Patnaik can take a decision on the utilisation of money in other districts after completing development works in the three affected districts.
“As per our order, the money is originated from Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts. You are collecting DMF from other districts you utilise if for them,” the bench said in oral observation.
The SC accepted most of the prayers of the lessees.
“We have prayed that the fund should be utilised for the provision of piped drinking water supply project, improvement of health services, mobile medical vans, eye clinics, hospitals, tie ups or referral systems with major hospitals. Improvement of education services including the infrastructure of educational institutions, technology-based alternative learning,” said advocate Naveen Kumar, counsel appearing for lessees.
Meanwhile, the state government affidavit, filed October 20, proposed that the Chief Executive Officer of the SPV must be a competent, senior officer of the IAS, IFS or any other service, who has an understanding of the issues of tribal welfare and area development. However, lessees prayed that “the said recommendation may also have the concurrence of the overseer appointed by this court.”
Lessees cited the 2018 status report of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on the district mineral fund (DMF) which said that the DMF administration is heavily dominated by bureaucrats and political representatives and there is no representation of mining – affected people. It further stated that the worst affected areas and people have been left out from the scope of investments.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium made submission in the court that there is definite need for a special overseer to be appointed by this court to oversee the work and progress carried out by the SPV. “The objective of SPV should be achieved,” said Subramanium.