Shri Anil Kumar Jain
Union Coal Secretary
Dear Shri Jain,
I find from your Ministry’s portal that the enclosed list of coal blocks are being put to auction shortly.
Most of these coal blocks are located in States such as Jharkhand, MP, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, AP and Telangana and many among the blocks are located in the areas notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, where the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1986 (known briefly as PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes And Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [known briefly as the “Forest Rights Act (FRA)”] are attracted. The two said legislations, mandate prior consent of the local adivasi Gram Sabhas before the mines are put to auction.
The apex court of India, in their judgements in the Samata case (AP) and the Vedanta case (Odisha), had clearly reiterated this position, as you will observe in the enclosed copies of the judgements. Moreover, as laid down in the Samatha judgement, no private agency is permitted to mine in the Scheduled Areas.
In my letter dated 13-11-2021 addressed to the Prime Minister (https://countercurrents.org/2021/11/national-tribal-day-the-centre-and-the-states-should-walk-the-talk/), I had pointed out the legal implications of going ahead with such auctions and I am sure you are fully aware of the same.
If your Ministry and the concerned States choose to go ahead with the auctions as proposed, I am afraid that your action will amount to violating the relevant statutes, causing disruptions to the lives of the adivasis and the other traditional forest dwellers, in addition to violating the directions of the apex court.
May I request you therefore to keep on hold the proposed auctions, pending a comprehensive scrutiny of the proposal from the point of view of the laws applicable to the Scheduled Areas?
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Govt of India