The division bench of Jharkhand high court comprising chief justice Virendra Singh and justice P P Bhatt has concluded hearing one half of the Noamundi iron- ore mines lease renewal case involving Tata Steel on Wednesday and reserved its order for a later date. The steel major filed a petition seeking direction of the court to the state government for allowing issuance of a forwarding note so that it could transport mined ore outside the lease area, failing which the Jamshedpur-based steel plant fears running short of supply.
While Tata Steel was represented by Supreme Court advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhwi and Ajit Kumar Sinha, state government was represented by additional advocate general Jai Prakash and Rajesh Shankar.
The state government has asked the steel major to pay Rs 3,500 crore as cost of minerals to the state government for the mineral extracted since expiry of its second lease agreement in January 2012 right up to when the steel company stopped mining activities in August 2014.
Mining was stopped in Noamundi after an order issued by the state government followed a Central directive to stop mining activities in all mines under second or third deemed lease renewals in wake of the Supreme Court order in April 2014.
Arguments made before the double bench included the state’s representative saying that it may consider issuing forwarding notes only if the steel major would be willing to pay Rs 371 crore, after deducting the periodical payments that it has made towards cost of mineral extracted between the period of apex court judgement of April 2014 and when the steel major continued mining activities at Noamundi mines till August 2014.
“We have agreed that the payment for cost of minerals during the period of deemed lease renewal could be mutually argued before the court but the period following SC judgement, the extraction of iron ore cannot be considered legal and the cost must be paid to the state government,” said Rajesh Ranjan.
Tata steel advocates argued that since there were amendments in the Mining and Mineral (Development and Regulations) Act, 2015 in January and Noamundi mine lease agreement has been awarded to the company under provisions of the new law, it should not be compelled to pay in accordance with the old provisions of Mineral Concession Rules.
The state government advocate said the arguments of both parties were heard by the division bench and order was reserved. “We expect the court to deliver its interim order, concerning the part of issuance of forwarding note any time soon,” said Ranjan.