New Delhi: The Supreme Court has sought response from the Central government, CBI, Odisha and Karnataka government on a PIL seeking a court monitored CBI probe into the allocation of mining leases and extension of lease period of 358 iron ore mines in Odisha and Karnatak without any fresh evaluation and adoping the due auction process.

The PIL also prayed the court for cancellation of the 358 iron ore mining leases. It also sought the quashing of Section 8A of the Mines & Minerals(Development & Regulation) Act, 1957.

Out of the 358 leases, 288 been extended till 2020 and the remaining 70 till 2030.

A division bench comprising of justices S.A.Bobde and S. Abdul Nazeer while serving notices on Centre, Odisha, Karnataka and the CBI for response has appointed senior counsel P.S.Narasimha as amicus curiae to the assist the court in the matter.

Manohar Lal Sharma, the petitioner advocate has pointed out that the Section 8A of the MMDR Act, 1957, which provides for grant of a mining lease for minerals other than coal, lignite and atomic minerals, is “illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional”. According to him the Section 8A, inserted by the MMDR amendment Act, “is a clear violation of Art 14 and 21 of the Constitution” … (and) has created serious financial and other injuries to the general public at large…”.

Sharma has said in the petition that the extension of iron ore mining leases was in breach of the top court’s 2012 verdict, according to which mines could be leased only after valuation and auction and not free. The court had said this while answering the Presidential reference on the allocation of natural resources.

The five-judge constitution bench of the top court by its September 27, 2012 majority judgment had said that the auction could be a better option where the aim is maximisation of revenue, but then “every method other than auction of natural resources cannot be shut down”.

Alleging that the mining leases extended in 2014-2015 in return for alleged large donations, Sharma has said that the loss to the exchequer is to the tune of Rs 4 lakh crore due to this deal.