Govt surrenders, withdraws cabinet decision of transporting ‘disputed’ ore

“Either you withdraw the Cabinet decision or face a judgement within a week”, warned the Bombay High Court at Goa. 

Surrendering to the warning, the Goa government immediately withdrew its own cabinet decision. This allowed former leaseholders (Goa’s mine owners) to transport the ‘disputed’ ore extracted in the first decade of 2000. 

Calling the cabinet decision illegal, Goa Foundation challenged it in court through a Public Interest Litigation. 

According to Dr Claude Alvares, the Bombay High Court at Goa has disposed of the PIL. The state government informed the court that it was withdrawing the Cabinet decision allowing the transport of iron ore extracted before 2007. 

Dr Alvares says they filed the PIL due to the Goa government’s reluctance in implementing a Supreme Court order from 13 October 2020. 

Goa Foundation Director Claude Alvares
Goa Foundation Director Dr Claude Alvares

The apex court had directed the state government to take back leased areas from mining leaseholders. The court also directed the government to confiscate all materials and equipment lying in such areas. It also included the iron ore lying at the lease properties. 

Instead, the BJP government allowed the leaseholders to transport the ore lying at the lease properties. They took this decision at a cabinet meeting held on 25 March 2021. The PIL also challenged this cabinet decision. 

On 4 May 2022, the Goa government issued orders to 88 former leaseholders. The government asked them to vacate their leases so that the government could commence auctioning them. 

However, the leaseholders challenged this order in a batch of writ petitions, which the Bombay High Court rejected. Subsequently, the Supreme Court dismissed appeals filed against the Bombay High Court’s judgement on 21 November 2022.

Last week, the high court took up the second part of the PIL dealing with the cabinet decision. After hearing all sides, the Court informed the Goa government that it would either have to withdraw the Cabinet decision or face a judgement within a week. 

In response, on 15 December, the Goa government informed the Court that it was recalling the cabinet decision.

Pramod Sawant
Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant

According to Dr Alvares, the Government granted permits to several former leaseholders, including Sociedade Zarapkar and Parker, Mineira Nacional Limitada, Prabhakar Kunde, and Mohanlal Rege to transport mineral ore from their leases.

Apparently, they claimed that they extracted the ore before 2007. The Supreme Court had earlier confiscated 16.8 million tonnes of ore extracted by these former leaseholders, between the period 2007 to 2012. It was subsequently auctioned off.

The petition filed by The Goa Foundation alleged that the Cabinet decision dated 25.03.2021 was illegal on numerous grounds. To this end, they had already moved the High Court with separate petitions to stay the movement of ores by the Cabinet decision. 

In all such cases, the High Court had granted a stay.

Dr Alvares has also alleged that despite Supreme Court directions and the provisions of law, the state government has continued to act as an ‘employee’ of the former mining leaseholders, disposing of public wealth to them.

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