**Keonjhar:** At a time when Odisha Government has started the process to confiscate properties of mine owners, who have not paid penalty for illegal mining activities, seven out of nine mine owners, against whom certificate cases have been lodged, deposed before the court of the Collector-cum-District Magistrate in Keonjhar today.
As per sources, except Sharada Mines owner Arjun Sharma, who appeared before the court in person, all others defaulters including Gandhamardan Sponge, Mala Roy and Brothers, BPME Ltd, Narayani Sons, SD Sharma, and HG Pandya and Brothers were represented by their respective lawyers.
All of them had been served a show cause notice earlier to apprise the court of the circumstances under which they failed to pay the fine as per the directive of the Supreme Court.
Out of the two absentees BK Mohanty and Basudev Aggarwal, the latter is reportedly dead, therefore the court ordered to identify a legal heir of Basudev and issued new dates for hearing appeals of the two defaulters.
Rest of the defaulters appealed before the court to grant them some time to clear the dues following which the court has issued new dates. In the meantime, some of the defaulters have already done part payment of their dues online.
In August 2017, the apex court had directed leaseholders to pay 100 per cent penalty within December 31, 2017 for excess and illegal mining. According to the judgment, a total Rs 17500 crore penalty was to be collected from the defaulters.
Following order of the Supreme Court, the Mines Secretary had written to the district collectors to take action against the defaulters and confiscate property under the Odisha Public Demands Recovery (OPDR) Act.
Based on it cases were registered against 23 lessees of 31 mines out of which 28 are in Joda and three in Keonjhar. Later, The Keonjhar District Magistrate’s court issued three dates – July 28, August 4 and 18 – for hearing pleas of the 23 defaulters.
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