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Goa Lokayukta slams Governor for ignoring order to take action against errant officers

The complaint was made by the Goa Foundation alleging that mining renewals were hastily approved despite of impending ordinance suggesting competitive bidding

Sabrangindia 04 Jun 2020

Goa Lokayukta

Background of mining in Goa:

Before merger of Goa with India, several mining concessions had been granted by the erstwhile Portuguese government to several persons/companies for extracting minerals and such concessions were in perpetuity. After Goa’s merger with India came the Mines and Mineral Development Act, 1957 as well as the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987.

Background of the case

The Goa Foundation in its Writ petition before the Supreme Court had raised the issue of illegal mining in Goa and the court had held that the mining leases had expire in November 2007 and all mining and sale of mineral ore from then was illegal.

Further, Supreme Court also quashed a High Court order that allowed the renewal of certain mining leases but did not initiate investigation against the government department respondents under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Hence the Goa Foundation approached the Goa Lokayukta for inquiry against Laxmikant Parsekar (former Minister of Mines, Goa), Pawan Kumar Sain (former Secretary of Mines, government of India), Prasanna Acharya (Director of Mines and Geology, Goa) and the government of Goa.

The case of the complainant

As per the Goa Foundation, the respondents approved the renewal of several mining leases despite of being cognizant of the Central government ordinance, which was in the offing, which allowed grant of iron ore leases only by way of auction. The renewals were approved just before the ordinance was promulgated and assented to by the then President of India. The Goa Foundation alleges that the en masse approvals amounted to missed and abuse of position by the respondents to confer illegal benefits on several erstwhile mining lease holders thereby causing huge loss to the government exchequer.

The respondents contended that their decision was on the basis of the judgment of the Bombay High Court which had allowed renewals of leases in cases where stamp duty already been paid. They further contended that just because their decision was deemed to be illegal, it doesn’t mean they had committed any offence.

Findings of the Lokayukta

The Lokayukta held that the peculiar circumstances under which there was en masse renewal of the mining leases, in a great hurry within a span of about one wee is a grave incriminating circumstance against the respondents which needs an explanation.

The Lokayukta questioned the respondents as to why the renewals were not carried out within the period of 3 months granted by the Bombay High Court in its August 2014 judgements, which the respondents claimed to have followed for avoiding contempt proceedings. These renewals were issued much later in January 2015.

“The important question arises as to why did the respondents suddenly wake up from their deep slumber on or after 5th January 215 and why on 12th January 2015 itself, 31 files which were gathering dust were suddenly resurrected from their moribund condition, similarly typed noted were hastily prepared and signed by the Respondent No. 3 and approved by the other two respondents without even accurately reflecting the relevant facts in many such filed, conveniently ignoring the fact that the mandatory requirements of obtaining opinion of the IBM (Indian Bureau of Mining) as mandated under Rule 24-A had not been fulfilled and also ignoring the fact that allegations relating to violation of rule 37 were under inquiry,” said the Lokayukta.

Further it held that the respondents were aware of the amendments proposed by the central government to the MMDR Act in November 2014 and one would have expected that they would wait till the amendments were finally made. It further observed that the cabinet decision with regards to the amendment came on January 5, 2015 and the Ordinance was promulgated on January 12 and between January 5 and January 12, the respondents approved renewals of 56 mining leases.

The Lokayukta held that the renewals were granted without waiting for the approval from IBM and the respondents did not offer any explanation for this hurry  under the pretext that the High Court judgment operated as a mandamus for renewal of leases, while that was not the case. Referring to the undue haste the Lokayukta said, “Only an ostrich with its head deeply buried in the pristine sand of Arabian sea can say that the overnight renewals at a speed faster than that of the fastest jaguar… had been routinely done in course of official transactions without any iota of any malafide intention”.

The Lokayukta held that it is futile to expect any direct evidence on the pecuniary benefit gained by a public officer for doing something illegal but the lack of good faith is apparent in this case. The Lokayukta held, “Though it is impossible to prove that they themselves had received any pecuniary advantage, it is apparent that they had abused their official position to confer huge benefit on some of the mining lease holders. I consider it a fit case where it should be declared that such persons should not continue to hold office held by them.” The Lokayukta also derived that they acted in conspiracy and hence are also liable for prosecution under the section 13(1)(d) pf the Prevention of Corruption Act and directed the state government to register an FIR against them.

The Lokayukta also directed the government to hand over the investigation under the FIR to an independent agency like the CBI while it called out the reluctance of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Goa, to act against influential people.

The Lokayukta order dated January 20, 2020 may be read here.

This order, dated January 20, 2020 was not followed through as expected the matter once again came before the Lokayukta who considered the Action Taken Report (ATR) filed by the Governor Goa which said that the decision of the Lokayukta was rejected basis the opinion of Advocate General. The Lokayukta dismissed the report and deemed that the opinion of the Advocate General, which was not supplied to the Lokayukta, seemed to have been based on half baked ideas and incomplete and cursory reading of the Goa Lokayukta Act. While considering each point of the ATR, the Lokayukta explained the various sections of the Act, in this Special Report under section 16(3) of the Goa Lokayukta Act.

The Lokayukta noted, “The non-acceptance of the report is on the expected line, given the usual attitude of protecting the privileged matter without discerning the relevant materials in their proper perspective.” The Lokayukta said that if the respondents are able to give  single reason why the 31 files were “suddenly resurrected” on January 12, 2015 in complete disregard of the laws in place, he will recall the entire report on its own accord and instead recommend for conferring appropriate honour on the respondents for remarkable efficiency.

In this special report, the Lokayukta concluded by reiterating its January 20 order and directed that this report be placed before the state Assembly as provided for in the Goa Lokayukta Act.

The Lokayukta order dated May 27, 2020 may be read here.

 

Related:

Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector

PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query

Goa Lokayukta slams Governor for ignoring order to take action against errant officers

The complaint was made by the Goa Foundation alleging that mining renewals were hastily approved despite of impending ordinance suggesting competitive bidding

Goa Lokayukta

Background of mining in Goa:

Before merger of Goa with India, several mining concessions had been granted by the erstwhile Portuguese government to several persons/companies for extracting minerals and such concessions were in perpetuity. After Goa’s merger with India came the Mines and Mineral Development Act, 1957 as well as the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987.

Background of the case

The Goa Foundation in its Writ petition before the Supreme Court had raised the issue of illegal mining in Goa and the court had held that the mining leases had expire in November 2007 and all mining and sale of mineral ore from then was illegal.

Further, Supreme Court also quashed a High Court order that allowed the renewal of certain mining leases but did not initiate investigation against the government department respondents under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Hence the Goa Foundation approached the Goa Lokayukta for inquiry against Laxmikant Parsekar (former Minister of Mines, Goa), Pawan Kumar Sain (former Secretary of Mines, government of India), Prasanna Acharya (Director of Mines and Geology, Goa) and the government of Goa.

The case of the complainant

As per the Goa Foundation, the respondents approved the renewal of several mining leases despite of being cognizant of the Central government ordinance, which was in the offing, which allowed grant of iron ore leases only by way of auction. The renewals were approved just before the ordinance was promulgated and assented to by the then President of India. The Goa Foundation alleges that the en masse approvals amounted to missed and abuse of position by the respondents to confer illegal benefits on several erstwhile mining lease holders thereby causing huge loss to the government exchequer.

The respondents contended that their decision was on the basis of the judgment of the Bombay High Court which had allowed renewals of leases in cases where stamp duty already been paid. They further contended that just because their decision was deemed to be illegal, it doesn’t mean they had committed any offence.

Findings of the Lokayukta

The Lokayukta held that the peculiar circumstances under which there was en masse renewal of the mining leases, in a great hurry within a span of about one wee is a grave incriminating circumstance against the respondents which needs an explanation.

The Lokayukta questioned the respondents as to why the renewals were not carried out within the period of 3 months granted by the Bombay High Court in its August 2014 judgements, which the respondents claimed to have followed for avoiding contempt proceedings. These renewals were issued much later in January 2015.

“The important question arises as to why did the respondents suddenly wake up from their deep slumber on or after 5th January 215 and why on 12th January 2015 itself, 31 files which were gathering dust were suddenly resurrected from their moribund condition, similarly typed noted were hastily prepared and signed by the Respondent No. 3 and approved by the other two respondents without even accurately reflecting the relevant facts in many such filed, conveniently ignoring the fact that the mandatory requirements of obtaining opinion of the IBM (Indian Bureau of Mining) as mandated under Rule 24-A had not been fulfilled and also ignoring the fact that allegations relating to violation of rule 37 were under inquiry,” said the Lokayukta.

Further it held that the respondents were aware of the amendments proposed by the central government to the MMDR Act in November 2014 and one would have expected that they would wait till the amendments were finally made. It further observed that the cabinet decision with regards to the amendment came on January 5, 2015 and the Ordinance was promulgated on January 12 and between January 5 and January 12, the respondents approved renewals of 56 mining leases.

The Lokayukta held that the renewals were granted without waiting for the approval from IBM and the respondents did not offer any explanation for this hurry  under the pretext that the High Court judgment operated as a mandamus for renewal of leases, while that was not the case. Referring to the undue haste the Lokayukta said, “Only an ostrich with its head deeply buried in the pristine sand of Arabian sea can say that the overnight renewals at a speed faster than that of the fastest jaguar… had been routinely done in course of official transactions without any iota of any malafide intention”.

The Lokayukta held that it is futile to expect any direct evidence on the pecuniary benefit gained by a public officer for doing something illegal but the lack of good faith is apparent in this case. The Lokayukta held, “Though it is impossible to prove that they themselves had received any pecuniary advantage, it is apparent that they had abused their official position to confer huge benefit on some of the mining lease holders. I consider it a fit case where it should be declared that such persons should not continue to hold office held by them.” The Lokayukta also derived that they acted in conspiracy and hence are also liable for prosecution under the section 13(1)(d) pf the Prevention of Corruption Act and directed the state government to register an FIR against them.

The Lokayukta also directed the government to hand over the investigation under the FIR to an independent agency like the CBI while it called out the reluctance of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Goa, to act against influential people.

The Lokayukta order dated January 20, 2020 may be read here.

This order, dated January 20, 2020 was not followed through as expected the matter once again came before the Lokayukta who considered the Action Taken Report (ATR) filed by the Governor Goa which said that the decision of the Lokayukta was rejected basis the opinion of Advocate General. The Lokayukta dismissed the report and deemed that the opinion of the Advocate General, which was not supplied to the Lokayukta, seemed to have been based on half baked ideas and incomplete and cursory reading of the Goa Lokayukta Act. While considering each point of the ATR, the Lokayukta explained the various sections of the Act, in this Special Report under section 16(3) of the Goa Lokayukta Act.

The Lokayukta noted, “The non-acceptance of the report is on the expected line, given the usual attitude of protecting the privileged matter without discerning the relevant materials in their proper perspective.” The Lokayukta said that if the respondents are able to give  single reason why the 31 files were “suddenly resurrected” on January 12, 2015 in complete disregard of the laws in place, he will recall the entire report on its own accord and instead recommend for conferring appropriate honour on the respondents for remarkable efficiency.

In this special report, the Lokayukta concluded by reiterating its January 20 order and directed that this report be placed before the state Assembly as provided for in the Goa Lokayukta Act.

The Lokayukta order dated May 27, 2020 may be read here.

 

Related:

Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector

PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query

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