Action in ‘goonda tax’ case eyewash, says HC - ECAS Punjab

Action in ‘goonda tax’ case eyewash, says HC

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Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4

Finding an affidavit on illegal mining activities evasive about the setting up illegal check posts and collection of "goonda tax" in Ropar, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asserted that the action taken till date in the matter appeared to be nothing more than an eyewash. The Bench also sought the state's response on six counts, including progress against erring officials.

No clarity

The Bench of Jaswant Singh and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma, the state counsel referred to an affidavit giving details of progress on departmental front and investigation/registration of cases. It found absence of clarity in the affidavit on the issue reported by a judicial officer regarding the setting up of illegal nakas and goonda tax.

As the matter came up for resumed hearing before the Bench of Jaswant Singh and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma, the state counsel referred to an affidavit giving details of progress on departmental front and investigation/registration of cases.

It stated four FIRs had been registered in Ropar district regarding illegal mining activities. But the Bench found absence of clarity in the affidavit on the issue reported by a judicial officer regarding the setting up of illegal nakas and goonda tax.

The Bench then directed the state to file an affidavit on the progress against persons found manning illegal check posts and their superiors/contractors and the provisions, if any, under which the state proposed to take action.

The state was also asked to specify whether there was any provision under the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, the Punjab Minor Minerals Rules or any other rule in force which penalised a person for setting up illegal nakas and seeking royalty for minerals. It was also asked to specify the details of procedure, if any, for an aggrieved person to report the setting up of nakas and collection of goonda tax.

Directions were also issued to the state to apprise the court on method put in place by the government for reporting illegal mining in any area and provisions under which penal action was taken.

Considering subsequent events, especially the initiation of criminal proceedings by the state and other administrative inquiries initiated to investigate the matter, the Bench added it would be a wastage of resources by asking two agencies to look into similar issue. Consequently, the Bench directed the CBI to put on hold any further inquiry into the matter.

The matter was brought to the High Court's notice by Bachittar Singh through counsel Mansur Ali. In his report, CJM-cum-Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Ropar, Harsimranjit Singh, had stated that local residents, passersby and the truck drivers unanimously confirmed no truck carrying sand and gravel was allowed to cross the points without paying royalty.



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