The claim was established on a stone crusher under the name of M/s Krishna Stone Crusher at Sanghani, Poonch Road Akhnoor. He has challenged the order of respondent No.3 and the same was held in the judgement passed by a single bench judge comprising The Hon’ble Justice Sanjeev Kumar, in the matter M/s Krishna Stone Crusher V/s Union Territory of J&K and others [WP(C) No.1154/2021].
On 21.12.2020, the business premises of the petitioner were raided by respondent No.3 and found that the petitioner had without lawful authority and in contravention to The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, Accordingly vide seizure memo which was dated 21.12.2020, respondent No.3 seized the machinery as well as minor minerals unlawfully raised by the petitioner and handed over the same on the surname of Sub Inspector Rashpal Sharma of Police Station, Akhnoor.
Later the petitioner preferred a statutory appeal before respondent No.2. The appeal was dismissed by respondent No.2 vide impugned order dated 18.01.2021 being devoid of any merit. On remand, the matter came up for consideration before respondent No.2, who, vide impugned order dated 19.04.2021, constituted a Committee of four officers to carry out spot inspection and assessment of the number of minor minerals lying at the site of crusher in the presence of the petitioner and District Mineral Officer.
It was mentioned that the appeals filed by the petitioner before respondents Nos.2 and 1, too, were decided by the authorities in a casual and perfunctory manner without addressing the real issues raised by the petitioner. Also, the respondents have filed objections, It is submitted that the State of Jammu & Kashmir now Union Territory intending to regulate [WP(C) No.1154/2021] development and mining of minor minerals in tune with the directions of Hon’ble the Supreme Court and acting in the exercise of powers conferred under Section 15 read with Section 23-C of the Act reframed The Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016 [“the Rules”] notified vide SRO 105 of 2016.
Machinery as also the minor minerals stacked at the unit were seized by respondent No.3. FIR was also recommended against the petitioner for having committed theft of minor minerals, the property of the government, but correctly it was dismissed. Then Section 21 of the Act deals with the penalties that can be imposed on a person contravening the provisions of Sub Section (1) or Sub-Section (1-A) of Section 4 of the Act. Sub-Section (4) of Section 21 of the Act was mentioned by the Advocate.
It appears that the petitioner as also the respondents without appreciating the true import proceeded on the assumption that the provisions of Section 23-A of the Act providing for compounding of the offence on payment of sum were mandatory and that is how the matter was dealt with by the first appellate authority, However, if the petitioner chooses not to accept the offer for compounding of the offence, it shall be open for the authorized officer to file an appropriate complaint before the competent court of law and launch prosecution against the petitioner. The seized material including the machinery shall be dealt with by the competent court in accordance 9 WP(C) No.1154/2021 with law.
The Hon’ble High Court perused the facts and the arguments presented, and thereby, opined that –“These proceedings can proceed independently of the prosecution that may be launched by the authorized officer against the petitioner before the competent court of law for committing an offence under Sub-Section (1) of Section 21 of the Act. Needless to say that the petitioner, if aggrieved of the order/orders, if any passed by the respondents, shall be entitled to invoke statutory remedies as may be available to him under the Act and the Rules framed thereunder, With the aforesaid observations and directions, this writ petition is disposed of”.
Judgment Reviewed by: Mandira Siddesh