comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli has asked the Government to file a counter affidavit in the present matter within 4 weeks.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Central Government in a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, seeking directions to the Union of India to completely ban export of iron ore, whether in the form of pellets or otherwise or in the alternative to levy an export duty of 30% on export of iron ore in all forms including pellets (except pellets manufactured and exported by KIOCL).

A Bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli has asked the Government to file a counter affidavit in the present matter within 4 weeks.

During the hearing today, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner pointed out two issues in the present matter. In the first issue relating to the export of iron ore in any form, in pellet form or otherwise, he stated that the Court has on multiple times said that this type of mining is leading to over exploitation of natural resources

Mr Bhushan added that even though the Government says that an export duty has been imposed, mining companies are palletising iron ore and exporting it in pellet forms without paying custom duty.

The bench orally said that it cannot consider the first prayer which seeks directions to ban export. The bench said that it can consider the alternate prayer for imposing duties. However, notice has been issued on all prayers.

“Let them respond, we will see”, the CJI said while ordering notice.

Objection To The Petition By The Caveator:

During the hearing, before the Counsel for the petitioner Advocate Prashant Bhushan even began with his arguments Advocate ML Sharma, a caveator in the case raised an objection to the present petition.

Advocate ML Sharma, whose petition on a similar issue is already pending before the Supreme Court, stated “They have stolen my petition. I spend money and filed petition, and on behest of him, my video connection was disconnected 5 times. This is his regular practice, he always steals my Petition. He is a copy cat. After issuance of notice he files a petition every time.”

The Chief Justice of India however told Mr Sharma that Mr Bhushan is also entitled to file a petition

“Your Petition is already admitted . He also filed a petition. He is entitled to that or not? He is also entitled to file it.” CJI said

“If it has same cause of action, doesn’t mean we are dismissing your case.” Bench said.

The Bench also objected to Mr Sharma, being a caveator, interjecting before the petitioner could even make his submissions.

“We haven’t even heard him, where is question of caveator arguing? What is this system?” the Bench said.

“Mr Sharma you’re not supposed to interject before the Party has even opened the arguments, this is very unfair. Correct your spelling of caveator, it’s pathetic. Don’t describe yourself as ‘Keviator'” Justice Hima Kohli remarked.

“You’re bringing good causes to the court. Subsequently, other counsels are also doing it. Its a Public interest Petition. He is also supporting your cause.” the Bench told Mr Sharma.

Supreme Court had on August 26th directed the Central Government to file a counter affidavit in the plea filed by Advocate ML Sharma seeking directions to the CBI to register an FIR and probe the alleged duty evasion by 61 companies in allegedly ‘smuggling’ iron ore to China since 2015.

Petition Details: The present plea by Common Cause has sought directions to the Union of India to initiate proceedings under Section 11 of the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992 and Section 135(1) of the Customs Act, 1962, and for levy of appropriate penalty as per law against the companies which have been exporting iron ore pellets in contravention of the provisions of India’s export laws, thereby, evading the export duty chargeable on export of iron ore pellets.

The plea has also sought directions to the Centre to direct a thorough and independent investigation into the role of public officials in allowing the same.

The plea filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan has argued that the case raises grave issues of public interest in view of its serious impact on the public exchequer and on the domestic steel industry, thereby, prejudicially affecting the country’s economy, as well as its adverse effect on the environment.

According to the petitioner, mining companies illegally exporting huge quantities of iron ore in pellet form by avoiding the mandatory 30% export duty that is levied on iron ore exports, cause huge loss to the public exchequer worth thousands of crores of rupees as well as result in a shortage of iron ore supply to the domestic steel industry.

According to the petitioner, such illegal export of iron ore pellets have the ultimate affect of over-exploitation of natural resources adversely affecting the environment, and by allowing such illegal export of iron ore pellets to go unchecked, the Government is infringing people’s right to clean environment as well as precautionary principle.

The Petitioner has submitted that keeping the larger interest of the environment and economy, export of iron ore in the form of pellets or otherwise needs to be prohibited, as has been ordered regarding the ore originating from the State of Karnataka by the Supreme Court.

Case Title: Common Cause vs Union of India

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