Sunday, February 09, 2014

Cabinet approves ATR on Shah Commission on illegal mining

The Justice M B Shah Commission report on illegal mining in Odisha will be tabled on friday in Parliament as the Cabinet has approved making public the first part of the recommendations along with action taken report.
The Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the ATR (action taken report) at its meeting this evening, a senior minister said.
The Commission in the first report containing five volumes has recommended a CBI probe into all reported cases of illegal mining during 2008-2011, including the FIRs lodged by the police and vigilance departments.  The high powered panel has also said that the CBI inquiry would also unearth many more untraced cases. The ATR has cited the Odisha government's reluctance on holding a CBI inquiry but it did not state what views the Centre has on the matter. Sources said the ATR states that the government of Odisha is of the view that as the trial of nine criminal cases has already started and the trial courts have taken cognizance of the offences, there is no need of investigation by the CBI.

The ATR, prepared by a Committee of Secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth, states that the Odisha government has conveyed it has taken action against the lessee and power of attorney holder for illegal mining in Joda circle. "They have informed that six public interest litigation (PIL) petitions have been filed in the High Court of Orissa in this regard, including a petition for transfer of the cases to CBI.
These PILs are still pending," the ATR added.
The Shah Commission, which submitted its report in two parts, said: "All modes of illegal mining" were being carried out in Odisha and "it appears that law has been made helpless because of its systematic non-implementation." Recommending recovery of over Rs 59,203 crore from miners in the state for extracting iron ore "illegally and without lawful authority," the Commission said there was a collapse of government machinery during 2008-2011. It "looked to be ineffective and helpless in front of mining mafia, persons in political life, mighty lessees and some corrupt officials," the high-powered panel said. Moreover, the high powered panel had also found "one of the biggest illegal mining ever", worth over Rs 2,000 crore, in the Uliburu Reserve and Revenue Forests of the state and recommended handing over the inquiry to the CBI. The Commission has termed filing of a case by the state forest department on the matter as an attempt "mainly to cover up such a big scandal and for finding a way out to escape".
According to official sources, the UPA government is unlikely to make the full report of the Shah Commission public and only the first part, which was submitted in July, 2013, will be tabled during the current session of Parliament, along with the ATR.

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