Madras High Court Orders Sub-Collector for Fresh Considerations in Illicit Quarrying Charge

Excerpt

The District Collector imposed a penalty on the Petitioner Stonemark Engineering Pvt. Ltd. for illicit quarrying. However, the Petitioners contended that they were not given a chance to make their case in the enquiry proceedings and that the principles of natural justice had been violated. 

Facts of the case

The District Collector had issued a letter to the Sub-Collector recommending legal action to be initiated against the Petitioner i.e., Stonemark Engineering Pvt. Ltd. for the alleged illicit quarrying committed by them. In 2008, the Sub-Collector passed an Order levying penalty for illicit quarrying. In 2010, the Tahsildar passed a Distraint Order pursuant to the order passed by the Sub-Collector in 2008. The Petitioner had challenged all these Orders on the ground of violation of principles of natural justice committed by the Sub-Collector. While passing the impugned order, the Petitioner was directed to pay a penalty of Rs.72,50,400/- by way of penalty for the illicit quarrying at Adavanapalli Village. However, the Petitioner contended that the Orders were passed arbitrarily. The Respondents on the other hand submitted a counter-affidavit stating that the Petitioner was given ample opportunity in the enquiry proceedings and the representative of the Petitioner had participated in the said proceedings. 

Arguments Before the Court

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The counsel for the Petitioners pointed out Paragraph 10 of the counter affidavit filed by the Respondents. The counsel submitted that none of the documents or order which were the basis for the imposition of the penalty was sent or furnished to the Petitioner. 

The counsel for the Respondents submitted that the representative of the Petitioner was actively present in the enquiry proceedings. The representative was also granted the opportunity to raise objections in the enquiry proceedings. Thus, the counsel submitted that the Respondents adhered to the principles of justice.

Court’s Observations

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The Court noted that the Petitioner had not furnished the Orders/ documents on the basis of which the penalty was imposed. The Court observed that Paragraph 10 of the counter affidavit referred to the Order of the Court in 2007, Reports of the Deputy Director (Geology and Mining), Village Administrative Officer and Surveyor all dated 23.10.2007. All these Orders declared that the Petitioner had committed illicit quarrying. The Court observed from the report of the Deputy Director (Geology and Mining) that they were requesting the District Collector to levy penalty against the Petitioner.
The Court also noted that the “enquiry proceedings” often mentioned in the current proceedings only lasted for a day and that the Petitioner was not given a fair hearing. 

Court’s Order

The Court quashed all the impugned Orders and remanded the matter back to the Sub-Collector. The Court directed the second Respondent, i.e., the Sub-Collector for fresh consideration of the case based on merits and that the Petitioner should be given a fair hearing, the right of personal hearing, and all the relevant documents to be furnished to the Petitioner. Accordingly, the Court disposed of the petition. 

Click here for the judgement


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