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In blistering criticism of the Karnataka government for overlooking the illegal mining, transport and export of iron ore, the Supreme Court Friday ordered a CBI probe into the illegal extraction and export of 50.7 lakh tonnes of iron ore from the state’s forest areas from January 2009 to May 2010.

“Can there be any doubt or denial about the complete failure of the state machinery in preventing the illegal mining in the state,” the court observed, slamming the state government for its total inaction.

The forest bench of Justice Aftab Alam, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar directed a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe while accepting the report of its central empowered committee on environmental matters recommending the probe.

Slamming the Karnataka government, the court said it was a case of “the fence eating the grass”.

Directing the CBI to register a case and undertake investigations, the court said that if need be it could also hold “custodial interrogations”.

In line with 2G order barring all the courts from entertaining any plea, the apex court directed that no authority or court will entertain any plea arising out of its order for a CBI probe, effectively meaning that any matter in respect of this direction can only be raised before it.

Asking the investigating agency that it wanted results, the court permitted the CBI to approach it as and when it wanted to seek any directions.

“Let us go beyond investigation. We want results.”

Asking the CBI to even take into account the former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining, the court directed the state CID to hand over all the records to the CBI.

Justice Alam said: “Can anyone imagine that the state authority, right from bottom to top was not aware of the illegal mining of iron ore to the tune of 50.7 lakh metric tonnes, its transportation and export. The state machinery, instead of governing, was involved in all these illegalities.”

This court also pointed to the CEC report which said: “The transportation of such a huge quantity of iron ore involving more than five lakh trucks could not have been possible without the knowledge and active connivance of concerned officers and other public servants.”

Senior counsel, Raju Ramachandran sought to resist the ordering of the CBI probe, saying that the state CID was already investigating the matter.

Noting that the “state CID would be fully knowing what was happening while it was happening”, the court asked, “Have you arrested a single person involved in illegal mining so far?”

As Ramachandran sought to persuade the court that since the CEC’s April 27 report, the state CID had undertaken its investigations in right earnest, Justice Alam observed: “Mr. Ramachandran if we were satisfied with the steps you had taken, then we would not have taken these steps.”

The apex court direction of CBI probe is based on the two reports of the CEC – on April 27, and November 8, 2011. The court directed CBI to register FIRs, making two reports as its basis.

The court said that CBI shall also register FIR about the export of 8 lakh MT iron ore which was under seizure where 4 stevedores at Belekere port were directly involved.

Illegal export of 8 lakh metric tones of iron order under the seizure of the magistrate court was mentioned in the CEC’s April 27 report.

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