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The Supreme Court Thursday halted mining and transportation of iron ore from six mines in Bellary reserved forest area in Andhra Pradesh by Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) owned by Karnataka minister G. Janardhana Reddy and his brother.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice B.S. Chauhan halted the mining operations in the six Bellary mines in Anantapur, leased out to the Reddy brothers’ firm, by ordering status quo to all parties, including the Andhra Pradesh government and the mining firms.

The bench gave the status quo order on a lawsuit by the state government, challenging the state high court’s order, which had Feb 26 this year struck down the government’s order, halting mining operations in the reserve forest.

The Andhra Pradesh government had prohibited mining after an apex court appointed central empowered committee (CEC) had recommended to the state government Nov 19, 2009 to stop mining activities by the company in the area.

The CEC was constituted by the Supreme Court to inquire into the matter based on a writ petition filed by Tapal Ganesh of Bellary against OMC over alleged illegal activity in violation of the Forest Conservation Act.

Ganesh had also accused the Reddy brothers’ firm of encroaching upon forest land.

On the basis of allegations of encroachment of forest land and on recommendations by the apex court’s panel, the Andhra Pradesh government had also written to the union government for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter. The union government has accordingly ordered a CBI probe.

But Reddy brothers had gone to the high court challenging both halting of mining operations by the state government and its subsequent Dec 1 order for a CBI probe.

The high court ruled Feb 26 in favour of Reddy brothers, allowing them to continue with the mining operations.

The state government has subsequently come to the apex court

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