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| Last Updated:18/06/2019

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Mining blocks in Punjab upheld, but HC quashes e-auction notice


Chandigarh | April 23, 2019: About six months after the Punjab government introduced a policy of creating mining blocks and going for open auction through progressive bidding, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has upheld the same, but quashed the e-auction notice as mining areas had not been identified.


The Bench of Justices Mahesh Grover and Lalit Batra ruled: "We uphold the state policy in creating blocks and going for open auction through progressive bidding, but would observe ‘only after identifying the mining area’, and precisely for this reason we quash the e-auction notice." The Bench added that the auction notice was totally vague and in contravention of the law settled by courts. It was also violative of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.


Disposing of three petitions, the Bench also directed the state to issue a fresh auction notice by defining mining areas. Setting a three-month deadline, it till then permitted petitioners having mining contracts earlier to carry on in accordance with the old policy. This, the Bench asserted, would not stall infrastructural projects.


The mining auction was to be held on December 27, 2018, for sand and gravel.


But the HC made it clear that any proceedings in furtherance of the auction notice dated October 31 and the policy dated October 26, 2018, would remain stayed. The Bench was told that the policy envisaged the award of contracts by way of block-wise auction comprising stretches of rivers/contiguous blocks of districts, wherever mineral was available. If mineral available was not sufficient in a particular area, it was to be clubbed with the adjoining district to form a workable block.


The petitioner-mining contractors’ case was that the notification indicated creation of blocks, but without identifying the area to be mined, which was ambiguous and incapable of being worked out.


Referring to the e-auction notice, the Bench added that it created blocks, but with no specified mining area. For example, block 1 comprised Ropar and block 2 consists of SBS Nagar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Barnala, Sangrur, Mansa, while block 3 was of Moga, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Fazilka, Bathinda and Faridkot


“Such a vague description of the mining area is an invitation to ravage,” the Bench added.


How is it possible?


It is difficult to comprehend how a mining contractor would make a bid in an open auction for mines that have not been identified or described by any revenue record or other means. HC Bench