Read Order: Chhaju Singh v. State of Punjab

Monika Rahar 

Chandigarh, June 9, 2022: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently held that though the term “minerals”, are not exhaustively defined in Clause (e) of Section 3 of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (“Mines Act”), the Central Government by a gazette notification issued on February 3, 2000, declared “ordinary earth”, used for filling or levelling purposes of embankments, road, railways, buildings to be a “minor minerals”, in addition to the minerals already declared to be a “minor mineral” in Clause (e) of Section 3 of the Mines Act. 

Essentially, in this case, before the Bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur, an FIR was registered against the present petitioner on a complaint made to the police by the Mining Officer of the area concerned with allegations that the petitioner breached Section 3 of the Mines Act and also of Section 4(1) of the Mines Act by removing “ordinary earth” from his land. The afore-said FIR was registered for illegal mining of minor minerals at Bhagomajra, near village Bairampur.

At the pre-charge stage, the petitioner moved an application seeking relief of being discharged of the offences, but the Trial Court dismissed the same. Aggrieved, the petitioner instituted a criminal revision petition which was also dismissed. Thus, the instant petition under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. was filed impugning the concurrent findings of the Courts below. 

The case of the petitioner’s counsel was that the Inspecting Officer while making an inspection of the site found that the land was level and also no mining activity apparently taking place at the site, instead the land was used for sowing wheat crops on it. It was the argument of the Counsel that prima-facie the allegations made in the FIR were false and the concurrent dismissal(s) of the petitioner’s application for discharge, by both the Courts suffered from gross non-application of mind to the exculpatory echoings carried.

On the contrary, the State Counsel proceeded to make a vehement submission stating that when the above submission was considered and validly rejected by the Revisional Court, the above finding did not merit any interference. The Counsel added that the petitioner had, from the joint khata land, made diggings of land measuring about 47′ in length, about 132′ in width, and, 2′ in depth. 

After considering an argument by the petitioner’s counsel in this regard, the Court observed that though “minerals”, are not exhaustively defined in Clause (e) of Section 3, the Central Government by a gazette notification issued on February 3, 2000 declared “ordinary earth”, used for filling or levelling purposes of embankments, road, railways, buildings to be a “minor minerals”, in addition to the minerals already declared to be a “minor mineral” in Clause (e) of Section 3 of the Act.

In the sequel to the above observation, the Court held that the above notification makes the above excavation of “ordinary earth” by the petitioner to be prima-facie used for lawfully forbidden purposes. 

Also, while addressing the argument of the Counsel, the Court observed (to the contrary of what was argued) that irrespective of the seizures of any machinery or tools of excavation and irrespective of the non-existence of any worthy material suggestive that the extraction of ordinary earth was not used for filling or levelling purposes or for any other barred purpose, on the anvil of the depths, lengths and widths of the excavation made of “ordinary earth” by the petitioner was prima-facie suggestive of the relevant breaches being caused to the mandate carried in Section 4(1) of the Mines Act, and/or to the above-alluded notification. 

Further, qua the argument of the petitioner on Section 22 of Mines Act, the Court observed when the substratum of the petition FIR, is, the complaint made before the police officials, by the authorized official concerned, and, when in sequel thereto investigations were carried thereinto. 

Elaborating further on it, the Court added, 

Resultantly, if on the basis of a complaint, as, made, by the competent officer, before the concerned, and, in sequel whereof the petition FIR became registered at the Police Station concerned, and, thereafter, it became thoroughly investigated, ultimately sequelling the institution of a report under Section 173 of Cr.P.C., before the learned trial Judge concerned. As a corollary when the complaint to the police officer by the authorized/competent officer, becomes the substratum for assumption of jurisdiction or the taking of cognizance thereons, by the learned trial Judge concerned.

Thus, Justice Thakur held that therefore, when even otherwise in a complaint, the Magistrate concerned, could have even asked for investigations being made thereinto, by a police officer, thereupon, merely on the basis of a FIR being lodged at the Police Station concerned, on the basis of a complaint, as, made rather by an authorized officer, does not deprive the Magistrate concerned, to assume cognizance, and, jurisdiction thereons, moreso, when the prosecution witness concerned, would testify with respect to the averments carried in the complaint, on anvil whereof, the FIR became registered.

The petition was dismissed. 

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