Court dismisses review petitions on merits as well.
A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has slammed the Goa government and Vedanta for “preferring” to file their review petitions against a February 2018 judgment after the retirement of two judges who authored it.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, in their February 7, 2018, judgment, cancelled 88 mining leases, which were renewed by the BJP government in Goa in 2015 to “benefit private mining leaseholders”.
Their 102-page judgment had traced the “rapacious and rampant exploitation” of Goa’s fragile ecology by private mining lease holders, whose sole motive was to make profits, for years. The verdict had noted how these leases were hastily renewed by the State in 2014 with retrospective effect from 2007, just in the nick of time before an amended Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act made auction of leases mandatory to mine notified minerals like iron ore.
Review petitions are heard by the same Bench that passed the original judgment.
Retirement of judges
Justices Lokur and Gupta retired on December 30, 2018 and May 6, 2020, respectively.
The State of Goa preferred its four review petitions in November 2019, after Justice Lokur’s retirement. Vedanta preferred its four review petitions in August 2020, right after Justice Gupta’s retirement.
Justice Chandrachud and Justice Shah, the second judge on the Review Bench, said no cogent grounds were furnished by either Goa or Vedanta to justify their delay between 20 and 26 months to file their review petitions.
Under the Supreme Court Rules of 2013, a plea for review has to be filed within 30 days of the judgment.
Dismissing the review, the Review Bench observed that “such practice must be firmly disapproved to preserve the institutional sanctity of the decision-making of this court. The review petitioners were aware of the decision of this court”.
“Keeping in mind the above, we are inclined to dismiss these review petitions on the ground of limitation alone. However, in any event, we also find that no legitimate grounds for review of the judgment in Goa Foundation II have been made out, and dismiss these review petitions on merits as well,” Justice Chandrachud and Shah recorded in their recent five-page order.
‘Loot of natural resources’
The 2018 judgment specifically delved on the role played by the Goa government in the loot of natural resources. It said the State gave private entrepreneurs mining leases “virtually for a song”.
“State sacrificed maximising revenue for no apparent positive reason, virtually surrendering itself to the commercial and profit-making motives of private entrepreneurs and ignoring the interests of Goan society in general,” Justice Lokur, who authored the judgment, for the Bench had observed.