Start CBI probe against 14 Odisha mining lessees, Shah panel tells Centre

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 9:

The Shah Commission inquiring into the illegal mining in Odisha has recommended to the Centre to initiate a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against 14 miners after it found serious violations of mining and green laws in the operations of 23 mines operated by them.

The Odisha government has so far been vehemently opposing the idea of a CBI probe into the mega mining scam.

Justice MB Shah
Justice MB Shah

The Commission in its Action Taken Report (ATR) has covered individually, leases granted to 14 groups operating in 23 mines and dealt with the illegalities / irregularities, violations, misuse of laws and powers committed by them in mines, forest, environment, taxes etc.

The panel in its report said since there was enough evidence that state government officials had knowledge of the violations by miners, only an inquiry by a central government agency such as CBI could unravel the truth and identify all the culprits.

In the second volume of the Second report, the inquiry panel had recommended CBI inquiry into all cases of illegal mining in Odisha.

In the third volume, after scrutinising 23 iron ore leases allotted to 14 miners, the panel in its report has insisted on a CBI inquiry against companies such as Aditya Birla group controlled Essel Mining, Sirajuddin and Co, Indrani Patnaik, Sarada Mines, Aryan Mining, M L Rungta, Mesco, Kalinga MIning Corporation, Ram Bahadur Thakur, S N Dasmohapatra and four other small miners.

“The working manner of lessee as could be seen from the reports of Vigilance and Income Tax departments; it reflects on the poor administration of the State Government and disregard with impunity to the law. The implementing and controlling agencies of the state seemed to be either acting in connivance or were helpless and silent spectators,” said the panel in its report.

The Commission has found serious illegalities in mining activities that include excess production, violating Rule 37 of Mineral Concession (subletting of lease), EC and FC norms and evading crores of rupees in terms of income tax and sales tax payment.

The Commission also questioned the system of lessees handing over mining operation to private operators and contractors, saying it has led to large scale tax evasion by miners.

“The act of lessee to hand over the mines to private operators not only constitutes violation of Rule 37 of the MCR, 1960, but involves clear evasion of VAT, income tax, money laundering, service taxes and other applicable taxes, which require a thorough investigation and follow up action by an independent agency like the CBI,” said the Commission.

Referring to the deal between Serajuddin & Co and Triveni Earthmovers Pvt Ltd (TEMPL), the panel’s report said, “The existence of such huge amount of payments being made by the Contractor to the Employer or to the Employer’s group companies is indicative of the fact that M/s. TEMPL may not merely be a raising contractor but actually an entity who controls the entire Mine by proxy.”

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