HC seeks status on stone-quarrying rules in JK

Srinagar: The J&K High Court has directed government to file a status report about the finalization of revised rules regarding stone quarrying and minor mineral activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
“It appears to us that the matter is being delayed without any reasonable cause and requires attention of the State at the earliest,” said a division bench of Justices Virender Singh and Hasnain Massodi and directed Advocate General to file ‘comprehensive’ status report before next date on August 6.
The direction was passed by the bench after senior advocate Z A Shah drew its attention to April 8 order by the court wherein the submissions by Financial Commissioner, Industries and Commerce Department, were recorded, stating that the finalization of Rules was at its final stage and that the matter was before the Chief Minister.
The Commissioner had submitted that a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary, and attended by various officers, was held wherein certain decisions have been taken.
“A committee of the officers headed by Financial Commissioner (I&C) and comprising Commissioner Secretary Revenue and Secretary Forest Department as members has been constituted to study the issue regarding the rehabilitation of the affected persons, if any, on the basis of inputs to be furnished by Geology and Mining Department,” the Commissioner had said.
“With regard to the progress vis-a-vis decisions taken by the Committee headed by Chief Secretary, no further inputs have been provided to the Court till date in the form of Status Report,” the court observed before passing the direction.
In another decision, the court also directed Deputy Commissioner Pulwama to file “better status report” regarding stone quarrying in the south Kashmir district.
“Status Report filed by Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, in our view, reveals less and conceals more, therefore, better Report indicating number of stone quarries operating within demarcated forest land and Kacharie land (be filed),”.
Earlier, Deputy Commissioners of Ramban, Samba, and Jammu file the status report regarding stone quarrying in their respective district in terms of previous order.
While DC Poonch was also asked to file the status report on last date of hearing, the court was informed the report was filed in October last year, reflecting that no stone quarry was operating in forest or the non-forest land in the mountainous district.
The court also directed government advocate Shuja-ul-Haq Tantry, to consolidate all the Status Reports filed by Revenue Authority(s) of the district and file a comprehensive report before next date of hearing for “passing an effective order in this regard.”
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Sofi Arif Maqbool, a resident of Wahipora, Handwara in Kupwara. Among other directions, he mainly seeks an end to stone quarrying within forest demarcated areas in the state.