HC stays collection of royalty, penalty from vehicles carrying extracted material into state

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday stayed the collection of royalty and penalty from vehicles loaded with ‘extracted material’ that enter Punjab, if the driver managed to produce required documents.

The order was passed by the High Court Bench of Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Alok Jain, who are hearing a petition filed by M/S Om Stone Crusher and others.

The petitioner through counsels Senior Advocate Aashish Chopra and Advocates Bhupinder Ghai and Meher Nagpal, said that the Punjab government had on June 9 this year issued a notification regarding cases of illegal mining and allegations of collection of so called gunda tax from vehicles that ferry material that had been extracted by mining contractors. The Bench was told that certain additional measures were taken to prevent illegal mining in Punjab and to implement High Court orders in the matter. These measures included the posting of officers and setting up of checkposts to verify documents being carried by the vehicles. Requisite royalty, along with penalty, was to be charged in case the material was found to be illegally extracted.

The petitioner, however, added that strangely though, even if the vehicle produced any document from outside the state of Punjab, still the officials at the checkpost would collect the copy of document as well as royalty, along with penalty, and would only reimburse the amount in case demand for same was made by the applicant. The petitioners submitted that the notification of the Punjab government is contrary to the Mines and Mineral Act, 1957, on various grounds.

The HC after hearing the matter, issuing notice to the state of Punjab and directed the submission of reply within four weeks, while listing the matter for consideration on October 18. Till that date, the Bench said, the collection of such royalties and penalties from drivers would stay suspended.

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