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Tarun Bharat Sangh v. Union of India, 1993 Supp (3) SCC 115


The present case pertains to the widespread illegal mining activity going on in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Mining involves clearing of forests and digging around 30 to 40 meters deep pits which results in water flow from wells into the pits.[1] As a result, mining has an impact on people’s lives, agriculture, animal husbandry, and the region’s water supplies.[2] The Petitioner, Tarun Bharat Sangh, a voluntary organisation with a vested interest in environmental protection approached the Apex Court in order to address the peril of said illegal mining activity that was being carried out in Sariska Tiger Park (hereinafter referred to as Sariska) that was a Tiger Reserve under Rajasthan Wild Animals and Bird Protection Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as RABP Act, 1951), a Sanctuary and a National Park under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as WPA, 1972) and a Protected Forest under Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 (hereinafter referred to as RFA, 1953).

The case of the Petitioner was that the Rajasthan Government has, contrary to law granted a large number of licenses permitting mining of various minerals. The Apex Court duly issued notices to mine owners and the State Government and thereafter issued certain directions on 11th October, 1991, including an interlocutory direction stopping mining operations in the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary by 15th December, 1991[3]. In addition to this, the Apex Court also formed a committee chaired by Justice M.L. Jain, in order to ensure compliance of the laws around Sariska. The said Committee was also tasked with the duty of demarcating and identifying the precise boundaries of the protected area under the notification dated 1st January, 1975. On 28th September, 1992, the Committee submitted its report according to which, maps given by different departments matched but the protected area was not in one continuous block but comprised in several blocks. 215 mines were fully within Sariska while 47 mines were partly inside and partly outside Sariska.

While the committee agreed on the aforesaid findings, they diverged on recommendations.The chairman of the Committee urged that the mining activities be immediately suspended. On the other hand, three other members differed from the said view and recommended that the Rajasthan Government’s proposal to remove the mines from the protected forest in exchange for an equal area be accepted. The State made the case for the deletion of 5.02 sq. kilometres area from protected forest by citing welfare and economic factors.


Upon consideration of all the facts of the case and arguments presented by the parties, the Apex Court framed and delved into the following legal issues:

Issue 1:

Whether the Notification dated 1st January, 1975 issued by the State Government was merely a provisional Notification impending a proper Notification?

Issue 2:

Whether the report submitted by the committee chaired by Justice M.L. Jain was valid or invalid?

Issue 3:

Whether the application filed by the Rajasthan Government seeking deletion of 5.02 sq. km area from protected area was valid or invalid?



Section 29(1) of RFA, 1953 empowers the State Government to make the provisions of RFA, 1953 applicable to any forest or waste land being State Government property is not included in a Reserve Forest.[4] In ordinary circumstances, this is subject to Section 29(3) of RFA, 1953 which specifies that prior to declaring any land be it forest or waste, as a protected forest, an enquiry must be made by the State Government into the nature and extent of the rights of the State Government and private persons over such land.[5] However, the proviso to Section 29(3) empowers the State Government to declare such forest or waste land as a protected forest pending the enquiry in case the State Government is of the opinion that the enquiry will consume ample time that is likely to threaten State Government’s rights.[6]

The instant case is one where the notification was issued under proviso to Section 29(3). The Apex Court observed that per contra the averments made by the Respondents, the Notification was a valid and effective one not interim in nature. This is because, Section 29 nowhere mentions two notifications in any event for declaring an area as a protected forest.


The Apex Court observed that the committee chaired by Justice M.L. Jain undertook an extensive task of demarcating the area declared as a protected forest by means of official maps and records. Accordingly, the Apex committee accepted the committee report and found no valid objection in law to the recommendation made by Justice M.L. Jain that the 215 mines which were situated fully inside Sariska ought to be immediately closed and the remaining 47 mines should also be immediately closed insofar as they were inside the protected area.

[Image Sources: Shutterstock]


The Rajasthan Government filed an application confined to 208 mines out of 262 listed mines seeking permission for deletion of area measuring 5.02 sq. km. from the protected area. It was the submission of the counsel for the mine-owners that there were a large number of mines that were within in tiger reserve even though they fell outside the protected forest which is why nothing would be accomplished by only closing the mines that fell within Sariska. In view of this, the Apex Court observed that it would be proper for the Ministry of Environment and Forests to examine the said proposition and submit a report to the Apex Court within three months.


In view of the inherent illegality attached with the mining activity being conducted in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the Apex Court directed that all mining activity in the 215 mines  mentioned in Appendix-A to Justice M.L. Jain committee report be stopped forthwith and all the mining activity in 47 mines mentioned in Appendix-B be immediately stopped to the extend the mines were inside the protected area. With respect to the mines located outside the protected forest but within the tiger reserve, the Apex Court directed that therein, the mining activity may continue for four months. Pursuant to four months, permission will have to be taken by the Central Government for continuing the mining operations. Such permission could be obtained by the mine-owners during the period of four months from the Department of Forest and Environment.


The radical departure from an anthropocentric approach to an eco-centric approach is evident in the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in recent years.[7] Earlier, laws as well as judgments focused on the needs of humans at the cost of environmental degradation. The paradigm shift from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism has undoubtedly led to greater safeguard of the environment. However, this is in itself has not completely eradicated the root causes of environmental degradation.

One such peril is illegal mining that continues to take place in several protected areas across the country despite directions given by various courts to the contrary. Water contamination, deforestation, low soil fertility, and restricted access to land for productive agriculture are just a few of the issues that arise from illegal mining.[8] The issue is made worse by widespread unlawful mining and ineffective government oversight in both public and private mines.[9] This is why, in various cases, courts have become involved in the debate over excessive land use.

The instant Sariska case is one such matter. It pertains to illegal mining activity going on in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. This region did not have any mining activity until the late 1960s.[10] Marble, soapstone, copper, and other precious minerals are reportedly abundant in Sariska Tiger Reserve where mining was occurring in both the buffer and core zones.[11] Marble mining was going on in Khoh, Baldevgarh, Tulwridi, Kalwadi, Bairvadhoongri, Siravav, and Vairava and copper mining was going on in Koh and Dariba which are all found within the Sariska Sanctuary.[12] This case brought about the closure of as many as 470 mines in and around the reserve.[13] It was not a case regarding the closure of a lawfully activity but one where the Apex Court had to ensure compliance of laws in order to safeguard the environment.[14] Therefore, upon consideration of the circumstances, it was observed by the Apex Court that grant or renewal of mining lease will not take place without due approval of the Central Government but in this instance, no authorization was given by the Central Government for the same.[15] The State Government of Rajasthan that was empowered to make rules to protect the environment failed to do so and on the contrary permitted illegal mining activity in a protected area.[16] The instant case is a perfect example of keeping the environment at a higher pedestal and protecting it even at the cost of development.[17] The Apex Court rightly stressed upon the importance of preserving the environment and respecting the issues associated with the environment.[18] Presently, the National Green Tribunal has banned all mining activity within 10 kms of Sariska.[19] Despite this, illegal mining activities in the area continue to make headlines. On 27 July, 2020 within Sariska, a mining mafia’s tractor mowed down a forest house guard.[20] For this reason, it is of utmost importance that authorities take corrective action to uphold the law of the land.[21]

Author: Sonakshi Pandey, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to [email protected] or at IIPRD. 

[1] Poonam Knawal, ‘Public Interest Litigation: Case Study of sariska National Park’ [2022] 10(7) <> accessed 28 January 2024

[2] Ibid.

[3] Meenakshi Kapoor, Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon, India’s Notified Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs): The Story So Far… (Kalpavriksh, 2009) 39

[4] Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 s 29

[5] Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 s 29

[6] Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 s 29

[7] Satish C Shastri, ‘Environmental Ethics – Anthropocentric to Eco-Centric Approach: A Paradigm Shift’ [2011-2013]

[8] Elizabeth Asantewaa Obeng and others, ‘Impact of illegal mining activities on forest ecosystem services: local communities’ attitudes and willingness to participate in restoration activities in Ghana, Heliyon’ [2019] 5(10) <> accessed 28 January 2024

[9] Pradeep S Mehta, ‘The Indian Mining Sector: Effects on the Environment & FDI Inflows’ (Conference on Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment, Paris, 2002) <> 27 January 2024

[10] Poonam Knawal, ‘Public Interest Litigation: Case Study of sariska National Park’ [2022] 10(7) <> accessed 28 January 2024

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Shahabuddin Ghazala, Ravi Kumar and Manish Shrivastava, ‘Creation of inviolate space: Lives, livelihoods and conflict in Sariska Tiger Reserve’ [2007] 42(20) <> accessed 28 January 2024

[14] ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar v. Union of India & Ors’ (UNEP-LEAP) <,of%20central%20Government%20was%20obtained.> accessed 27 January 2024.

[15] Rangisetti Naga Sumalika, ‘Conflict, Cooperation, Collective Action : Optimising Land Use – Andhra Pradesh’ [2021]

[16] Vijeta S Singh, ‘Approach of Indian Judiciary towards Sustainable Development in India’ [2019]

[17] CM Jariwala, ‘Mining and Environment: Indian Law Scenario’ [1995]

[18] Meenakshi Kurpad, ‘Privatisation of Lakes: An Overview’ [2012]

[19] Nityendra Manav v Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine NGT 2766

[20] Bhumika Indulia, ‘NGT | Forest Guard mowed down by mining mafia in Sariska: Tribunal asks authorities to take further remedial measures to enforce law of land || State PCB to follow Polluter Pays Principle for illegal mining activities’ (SCC Online Blog 2021) <> accessed 28 January 2024

[21] News item published on 27.07.2020 in the local daily named “Times of India” titled “Forest guard mowed down by ‘mining mafia’ in Sariska”, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine NGT 79

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