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Sheorattanlal Gulabchand Agrawal Vs. Union of India and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 2 of 1966
Judge
Reported inILR1971Delhi104
ActsMines & Minerals (Regulation & Development) Act, 1957 - Sections 30; Mineral Concession Rules, 1947 - Rule 57(2)
AppellantSheorattanlal Gulabchand Agrawal
RespondentUnion of India and ors.
Advocates: D. Mukherjee,; A.K. Nag,; B.B. Kishore and;
Cases ReferredM. Seshama v. Union Government of India
Excerpt:
.....central government' under section 30 of act 67 of 1957 had the power to revise the order of the state government. the power of revision given by section 30 would comprehend within it not only the power to set aside the order of the state government but also to issue other consequential directions, which, in the opinion of the central government, justice of the case may require.; (ii) mineral concession rules (1947) - rule 57(2)--applications for mining lease not disposed of within six months--whether can be said to be pending--principle of deemed refusal--rules 27 & 28 (1-a.).; that in case an application for mining lease was not disposed of within six months as provided for in proviso to sub-rule (1-a) of rule 28, then sub-rule (2) of rule 57 would be attracted and after the..........while the other one was dated september 21, 1952, and was for mining lease in kulkaria hills. the state government decided to grant mining lease to the party who was prepared to set up a paints factory. a notification was thereafter issued granting the mining lease to harris g mineral company. on revision filed by a firm called messrs neogi & sons, the central government ordered cancellation of the mining lease granted to harris mineral company. in 1955, the state government decided to work the mineral deposits in kulkaria and amua hills departmentally for the eventual establishment of a paints factory in the state and proposed reservation of the whole area. the proposal was duly approved by the central government in 1956, but subsequently in 1957 the central government informed the.....
Judgment:

H.R. Khanna, C.J.

(1) This judgment would dispose of four Letters Patent Appeal Nos. 2 and 3 of 1966 and Nos. 2 and 3 of 1967. Appeal Nos. 2 and 3 of 1966 have been. filed by Messrs Sheorattanlal Gulabchand Agarwal against the judgment of S. K. Kapur, J., dated September 13, 1966, dismissing their two civil writ petitions. Appeals Nos. 2 and 3 of 1967 are by Messrs Lacchilal & Co., against the judgment of S. K. Kapur, J. pronounced on the same day, i.e., September 13, 1966, whereby two writ petitions filed by the appellants in these two appeals were dismissed. All the four writ petitions, out of which the appeals arise, related to the grant of mining lease for ochre's in Kulkaria and Amua Hills, District Satna (Madhya Pradesh), and were directed against the orders of the Central Government dated November 30 1962.

(2) In 1951-52 some applications for grant of mining lease for ochre's in Kulkaria and Amua Hills were received by the then State of Vindhya Pradesh. Two of those applications were from Sheorattanlal Gulabchand Agrawal appellants. One of those applications was dated September 16, 1950, and was for mining lease in Amua Hills, while the other one was dated September 21, 1952, and was for mining lease in Kulkaria Hills. The State Government decided to grant mining lease to the party who was prepared to set up a paints factory. A notification was thereafter issued granting the mining lease to Harris g Mineral Company. On revision filed by a firm called Messrs Neogi & Sons, the Central Government ordered cancellation of the mining lease granted to Harris Mineral Company. In 1955, the State Government decided to work the mineral deposits in Kulkaria and Amua Hills departmentally for the eventual establishment of a paints factory in the State and proposed reservation of the whole area. The proposal was duly approved by the Central Government in 1956, but subsequently in 1957 the Central Government informed the State Government that there was no scope for setting up the proposed paints factory in the State. A proposal was then made by the State Government to the Central Government for dereservation of the area. This proposal was approved by the Central Government on February 26, 1958, with a direction that the area be thrown open for regrant in accordance with Rule 67 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1949.

(3) On February 27, 1959, a memorandum was addressed by the Under Secretary to the Government of Madhya Pradesh to the Collector of Satna as under :-

'SINCE the ochre deposits in Kulkaria and Amua Hills were reserved for departmental working the State Government have rejected the following applications pending in respect of these areas : Applications for Amua Hill Dated 1. M/s. Olepherts Ltd., Calcutta 1-12-50 2. M/s. Sheorattanlal Gulabchand Agarwal, Jaiwara 16-9-50 3. M/s. Munnalal Pasari and Sons.Satna 15-9-52 4. M/s. Harris Minerals Company, Jaiwara 14-8-1952 5. Hiralal Rafeswar Prasad, Jaiwara 14-8-1952 Applications for Kulkaria Hills 1. M/s. Neogy & Sons, Jaiwara 30-11-51 2. M/s. Harris Minerals Supply Co., Jaiwara 12-9-1952 3. M/s. Sheorattanlal Gulabehand Agarwal, Jaiwara 21-9-1952 4. M/s. Hiralal Rameshwar Prasad 22-9-1952 The applicants may please be informed accordingly. By order and in the name of the Governor of Madhya Pradesh. sd/- Under Secretary to Govt. of M.P. S----685 HCD/7l

On November 20, 1959, a notification was published in the Madhya Pradesh Government State Gazette, the material part of which was as under:-

'THE State Government have decided to throw open the entire areas of Kulkaria and Amua bearing ochre deposits in Tahsil Raghurajnagar for regrant after 30 days from the date of publication in the Gazette. The ochre bearing areas of both the hills have been divided into 8 and 14 blocks............'.

(4) Shcorattanlal Gulabehand Agrawal appellants in pursuance of the above notification filed fresh applications under protest for mining lease. Applications for mining lease in response to the aforesaid notification were also filed by Lachhilal & Co. and a number of others. Sheorattanlal Gulabehand Agrawal appellants also filed petitions under Rule 57 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1949, with the Central Government for review of the order of the State Government dated February 27, 1959, rejecting the applications of the said appellants. The Central Government dismissed the aforesaid revision petitions as per order dated November 30, 1962, which reads as under

'I am directed to refer to your application dated 29-1-1960, on the above subject and to say that after careful consideration of the grounds stated therein, the Central Government have come to the conclusion that there is no valid ground for interfering with the decision of the Government of Madhya Pradesh rejecting your application for grant of mining lease for ochre's in Amua Hills of District Satna. Your application for revision is thereforee, rejected.However, the State Government have directed to consider all the applications for grant of mineral concessions for ochre's in Amua Hills received in response to their notification dated 20-11-59 (irrespective of the fact whether any one of the applicants filed a revision application or not under Rule 54 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960) and pass orders thereon not later than 31-1-63.'

(5) Two writ petitions were filed by Sheorattanlal Gulabehand Agrawal appellants against the order of the Central Government rejecting their revision petitions. Two contentions were raised on behalf of the said appellants before the learned Single Judge. The first contention was that the order of the State Government rejecting the applications of the appellants on the ground that the areas were required for departmental working was mala fide and erroneous on the face of it as decision had already been taken to throw open the area for regrant. The second contention was that Rule 67, under which the regrant could be made, came into force in 1953 and as such could not affect the rights of the appellants who had made their application before that date. The second contention was repelled by the learned Single Judge. As regards the first contention, it was observed that the question did not really arise. According to the learned Judge, the matter had to be decided on the footing that the area had been rightly thrown open for regrant. Before dealing with the contentions advanced in the appeals, it would be useful to refer to some of the relevant provisions. Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948 (53 of 1948) was enacted for the regulation of mines and oil fields, and lor the development of minerals. The power to make rules as respects mining leases was conferred on the Central Government by Section 5 of the above mentioned Act. In exercise of that power, the Mineral Concession Rules, 1949, for regulating the grant of prospecting licenses and mining leases for minerals other than petroleum and natural gas were issued by the Central Government on October 18, 1949, Rule 27 of the Rules dealt with the applications for mining lease and specified the particulars which such applications should contain. Rule 28 provided that such an application should be accompanied by a fee of Rs. 200.00 Sub-rule (1-A) was added in Rule 28 as per notification dated September 4, 1956, and the sub-rule read us under:

'EVERY application under Rule 27 shall be disposed of by the State Government within nine months from the date of receipt of the application.'

As per notification dated August 31, 1957, the following proviso was added to sub-rule (1-A) of Rule 28 as also to some other sub-rules with which we are not concerned :

'PROVIDED that any such application pending with the State Government on the 14th September, 1956 and remaining undisposed of on the 24th August, 1957, shall be disposed of by the State Government within six months from the latter date.'

(6) According to Rule 32, if more than one application regarding the same land was received, preference should be given to the application received first, unless the State Government for any special reason, and with the prior approval of the Central Government decided to the contrary. Rule 40 specified the period of a mining lease to be 30 years in the ease of coal, iron-ore and bauxite for manufacture of aluminium, and 20 years in the case of other minerals, unless the applicant himself asked for a shorter period. Rule 57 was mentioned in the chapter entitled 'Revision'. The material part of sub-rule (1) as well as sub-rule (2) of that rule reads as under: (1) Where a State Government passes (an order) as under- (i) refusing to grant a certificate of approval, prospecting license or mining lease; (2) Where a State Government has failed to dispose of an application for the grant or renewal of a certificate of approval or prospecting license or a mining lease within the period prescribed thereforee in these Rules, such failure shall, for the purpose of these rules, be deemed to be a refusal to grant or renew such certificate, license or lease, as the case ma:y be, and any person aggrieved by such failure may, within two months of the expiry of the period aforesaid apply to the Central Government for reviewing the case. Rule 67 dealt with regrant and provided that no area which was previously held under a prospecting license or a mining lease shall be treated as available for regrant, unless an entry to that effect had been made in standard register.

(7) The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957 (67 of 1957) was thereafter enacted. The new Act dealt with the minerals other than petroleum. Section 32 of the new Act made amendments in the earlier Act 53 of 1948. One of the results of hose amendments was that the title of Act 53 of 1948 was changed lo the Oilfields (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948. According to section 29 of the new Act, all rules made under Act 53 of 1948 shall, in so far as they related to matters for which provision was made in the new Act and were not inconsistent therewith, be deemed to have been made under the new Act and shall continue in force unless and until they were superseded by rules made under the new Act. Mineral Concession Rules, 1948 consequently continued to remain in force till 1960 when Mineral Concession Rules 1960 were made by the Central Government in exercise of the powers conferred by section 30 of 1957. Rule 68 of the 1960 Rules provided that on the commencement of the 1960 Rules, the Mineral Concession Rules, 1949 shall cease to be in force except as regards things done or omitted to be done before such commencement.

(8) The contention, which has been advanced on behalf of the appellants in L.P.As nos. 2 and 3 of 1966 by their learned counsel, is that the appellants applied for grant of mining lease in the two Hills in question on September 16, 1950 and September 21, 1952. Those applications should be held to be pending on February 27, 1959, when the State Government rejected those applications. The principle of deemed refusal contemplated by sub-rule (2) of rule 57 of the 3 949 Rules, it is submitted, cannot apply because the provision about the disposal of applications for mining lease within nine months was introduced in the said Rules in 1953 after the submission of the appellants' applications. The said provision, it is added, could not have a retrospective effect so as to apply to the pending applications. It is further pointed out that the State Government in the order dated February 27, 1959, assumed that the applications of the appellants were pending and rejected those applications on the ground that the area was reserved for departmental working. The above ground, according to the learned counsel was manifestly incorrect as before that date it had been decided to de-reserve that area and to it for regrant. The impugned order whereby the Central Government declined to interfere with the above order of the State Government is consequently, the counsel submits, liable to be quashed. We have given the matter our consideration and are unable to accept the contention advanced on behalf of the appellants that then applications dated September 16, 1950 and September 21, 1952, for grant of mining lease should be held to be pending on the date the State Government made the order dated February 27, 1959. As pointed out earlier, proviso was added to sub-rule (1-A) of Rule 28 of the 1949 Rules Sub-rule (I-A) of Rule 28 required that every application under Rule 27 for mining lease should be disposed of by the State Government within nine months from the date of the receipt of the application. The case of the appellants, as would appear from the above, is that despite the above sub-rule the applications of the appellants remained pending because sub-rule (1-A) could not apply

(9) A to applications made before the introduction of that sub-rule. To such pending applications the proviso to sub-rule (1-A), which was added as per notification dated August 31, 1957, clearly applied. According to that proviso, such pending applications should be disposed of by the State Government within six months from August 24, 1957. In case such an application was not disposed of within six months from August 24, 1967, in that even sub-rule (2) of Rule 57 would be attracted. The effect of that would be that after the expiry of six months from August 24, 1957, the pending applications for grant of mining lease were to be deemed to have been rejected and no longer pending with the State Government. The State Government after the expiry of six months from August 24, 1957, had no power to treat those applications to be pending and to make any order thereon. The assumption of the State Government that the applications of the appellants were pending could not change the legal position and could not confer any power on the State Government to pass orders on those applications. We are fortified in this conclusion by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Nookala Setharamaiah v. Kotaiah Naidu and others, Air 1957 S.C. 1354 Hegde, J. speaking for the majority in that case, observed : 'If we read Rule 28(1-A) and Rule 57(2) together, there is hardly any doubt that after the period prescribed, the State Government is incompetent to deal with the applications pending before it. According to Rule 57(2), where a State Government has failed to dispose of an application for the grant of a mining lease within the period prescribed thereforee in the rules, such failure shall for the purpose of the rules be deemed to be refusal to grant the lease. The rules referred therein include Rule 28 as well. This deemed refusal, if read with the mandate given to the State Government under Rule 28 ( 1-A) requiring it to dispose of the applications within 9 months of the receipt of those applications, there can be hardly any doubt if the State Government does not dispose of the applications within the time prescribed, it is deemed to have refused those applications for the purpose of Rule 28 as well as Rule 57. It was further observed :

'THERE can be no estoppel against a statute. Rule 28 (1A) and Rule 57(2) are statutory rules. They bind the Government as much as they bind others. The requirement of those rules cannot be waived by the State Governments. thereforee the fact that the learned Government Pleader represented to the Court that the petition filed by the 1st respondent on September 15, 1953 was still pending disposal cannot change the legal position nor could it confer on the Slate Government any power to act in contravention of those rules.'

We, thereforee, hold that the applications dated September 16. 1950 and September 21, 1952. of the appellants should be deemed. to have been rejected long before the order of the State Government dated February 27, 1959. No revision or application for review against the deemed refusal was filed by the appellants. On February 27, 1959, the above-mentioned applications of the appellants were not pending and as such the State Government had no power to pass any order in respect of those applications. In the circumstances, the question as to whether correct reasons were given by the State Government in making order dated February 27, 1959. loses all significance. Whatever may be the reasons given by the State Government, the fact remains that on February 27, 1959, the State Government had no power to pass an order on the applications of the appellants which should be deemed to have been rejected long before that order. The order of the Central Government in rejecting the application for review of the said order consequently cannot be quashed as the review application assumed that the application dated September 16, 1950 and September 21. 1952, were still pending. Letter Patent Appeals Nos. 2 and 3 of 1966 are, thereforee, liable to be dismissed.

(10) We may now advert to Letters Patent Appeals Nos. 2 and 3 of 1967 which have been filed by Lachhilal & Co. It has already been mentioned above that in pursuance of the notification dated November 20, 1959, Lachhilal & Co., the appellants in these two appeals, as well as Sheorattanlal Gulabchand Agrawal and some other filed applications for grant of mining lease. Twenty-six applications were filed for the grant of a mining lease in Kulkaria Hills. Those applications were rejected by the State Government as per order dated May 31, 1961, and it was directed that the area might be thrown open for regrant. Applications filed for grant of mining leases in the other Hills were deemed to have been rejected. Lachhilal & Co. filed revision applications before the Central Government against the express or deemed refusal of the State Government. The Central Government as per order dated November 30, 1962 dismissed the revision applications. The order of the Central Government in respect of Kulkaria Hills was as under: 'I am directed to refer to your review application dated 19-11-60 and correspondence resting with your letter dated 17-10-62, on the above subject and to say that the Central Government in exercise of their revisional powers under Rule 55 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 and all other powers enabling in this behalf, hereby set aside the State Government's order contained in their Memo No. 5790/ Xii dated 31-5-61 and further direct them to grant leases over Kulkaria Hill area by selecting the parties in accordance with Section 11 of the Mines & Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act of 1957, from amongst all those who applied for grant of mineral concession in ochre in response to State Government Notification dated 20-41-59 (irrespective of the fact whether any of these applied separately for particular blocks or for whole of the area advertised by the State Government and whether any one of them filed a revision application or not under Rule 54 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960) and pass final orders by 31-1-1963.' The order made in respect of Amua Hills, was substantially similar and it is not necessary to reproduce it. Lachhilal & Co. appellants thereafter filed writ petitions to quash the above orders of the Central Government on the ground that the Central Government did not have the power to revive the applications of the other applicants as those applications stood dismissed. The learned Single Judge repelled the above contention and held that the Central Government had the power to make the impugned order under Section 30 of Act of 1957. The writ petitions of Lachhilal & Co. were consequently dismissed. Before us the learned counsel for Lachhilal & Co. has argued. as was argued before the learned Single Judge, that the Central Government could not pass an order directing the State Government to consider all the applications which had been made in response lo notification dated November 20, 1959. It is urged that the applications of only those applicants should have been ordered to be considered who, after the rejection of those applications, had filed revision petitions before the Central Government. We are unable to accede to this contention, because in our opinion, the Central Government under Section 30 of Act 67 of 1957 had the power to revise the order of the State Government. The power of revision given by Section 30 would comprehend within it not only the power to set aside the order of the State Government but also to issue other consequential directions which in the opinion of the Central Government justice of the case may require. In the cirmumstances, we find no infirmity in the impugned order of the Central Government whereby the order of the State Government was set aside and a direction was given to it to consider the applications of all the applicants who had applied in pursuance of notification dated November 20, 1959. The Central Government, it would see, wanted the parties to revert back to the position as it obtained before the rejection; express or deemed, of the applications for grant of a mining lease. We are fortified in the above conclusion by a decision of Andhra Pradesh High Court in M. Seshama v. Union Government of India, Ministry of Steel and Mines and others, : AIR1967AP94 . Jaganmohan Reddy, J. (as he then was), dealing with the scope of Section 30 of Act 67 of 1957 observed as under :-

'THE argument that the revision filed by the petitioner did not ensure for the benefit of all the partics, is a very feeble one. Under Section 30 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, the Central Government may, of its own motion or on application made within the prescribed time by an aggrieved party, revise any order made by a State Government or other authority in exercise of the powers conferred on it by or under this Act, so that the Central Government can suo motu entertain a revision, revising the order made by the State Government . So, the extension of time for the disposal of all the applications before a certain day was within jurisdiction of the Central Government even though it may be made on being moved by one of the applicants only.'

We are also not impressed by the submission made on behalf' of Lachhilal & Co. that they were not given an opportunity to male a representation to the Central Government in this behalf. The affidavit of Shri H. S. Sahni, Under Secretary to the Government of India, shows that the impugned order was passed by the Central Government after giving the applicants an opportunity to send then- counter. comments which were taken into consideration before passing the final order. The affidavit of Shri Sahni further shows that the impugned order was made after affording a complete and full opportunity to the appellants. We, thereforee, are of the view that the Letters Patent Appeals Nos. 2 and 3 of 1967 too are liable be dismissed.

(11) In the result, all the four appeals are dismissed. Looking to all the circumstances, we leave the parties to bear their own costs.


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