Governance chaotic as steel frame has rusted, says SC

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 20, 2013 00:26 hrs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said India's governance would not have faced a chaotic situation had the bureaucracy not allowed itself - the "steel frame" of the state - to be rusted.

"We have separation of power. A strong neutral bureaucracy and a steel frame bureaucracy" and "administration will run if an honest advice is given and government acts on it", said the green bench of Justice A.K.Patnaik, Justice S.S.Nijjar and Justice Fakir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, recalling the words of the constitution's framers.

However, the court regretted that things were not as were visualized by the framers. Justice Patnaik observed: "The idea was to create a neutral bureaucracy of steel frame. What exists today is a rusted frame, which is broken, crushed and backbone destroyed."

Observing that "governance is getting chaotic", Justice Patnaik said: "Our country will be still safe if that steel frame is there."

The court's observation came in the course of the submission of counsel A.D.N. Rao, who cited various decisions of the Goa government which were at variance with each other in the allocation of mining leases granted to different companies.

Rao, who appeared for the court appointed Central Empowered Committee on enviornment matters, favoured a clampdown on all the mining leases which were within one kilometre of the wildlife sanctuaries and reserves.

In respect of the mining leases that are within 10 km of wildlife sanctuaries and reserves, Rao said their operation should be put on hold and then examined.

He said that mining activities should be permitted in these mines only after a nod by the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife.

Referring to a line in the communication from the government, Justice Patnaik said: "It looks like as if the sanctuary is inconvenient and not the mining, whereas it should have been the other way round."

The court disagreed with the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) suggestion for restricting taking on board more partners in the company having mining leases or shakling a mine lease holder from exiting.

"If someone wants to exit, he should have the option. Economy functions better if there is corporate laws, instrument of agreements and other instrumentalities," Justice Patnaik said, pointing to their growth under the British.

As Goa government's senior counsel Arvind Datar disputed the figures of illegal mines given by Rao, the CEC counsel retorted that these figures were taken from the report of the Public Accounts Committee which was authored by Chief Minister Manohar Parikar when he was leader of opposition inn the state assembly.

The court is hearing a petition by Goa Foundation seeking a ban on the mining activities in Goa and permitting only an environmentally sustainable mining activity only after an expert body has gone into the damage already caused by rampant and rapacious mining on the environment.

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