The direction came on a petition filed by BPSL, seeking to start contempt proceedings against the state government officials for their alleged failure to comply with the apex court order of March 14, 2012, that asked the state government to send the BPSL case to the Centre.
The Supreme Court, setting aside the Orissa High Court judgement that refused to interfere with the state governments decision asking BPSL to sign a fresh MoU, had in March 2012 directed the Odisha government to take appropriate steps in line with terms of the MoU signed with the firm on May 15, 2002.
BPSL claimed the state government had only recommended grant of 96 million tonne iron ore reserves in Keonjhar (Thakurani area) and was yet to send the recommendation for an additional 128 million tonne in Keora (Sundergarh district) to meet its requirement of 1.6 million tonne for 50 years.
A Bench comprising Justices SS Nijjar and AK Sikri held the top officials guilty of contempt for failing to comply with the directions in respect of Keora area. However, it gave them one final opportunity to purge the contempt by transmitting requisite recommendations to the Central government. And if they failed to send the recommendations within a month, action will be taken against the state government as its action appears to us to be highly unreasonable and arbitrary, the judges said.
The apex court also dismissed three other petitions filed by Bhushan Steel, Jindal Power & Steel (JSPL) and Mahavir Ferro Alloys, which proposed to set up the R435-crore captive integrated steel and captive power plant in Sundargarh district, seeking similar relief as given to the BPSL on the ground that they were placed in the similar or even better position than BPSL and, therefore, entitled to same treatment.
Justice Sikri said they cannot approach the top court directly under Article 32 of the Constitution as no fundamental right is violated by non-grant of mining lease. The top court also rejected intervention applications by Tatas and L&T as non-maintainable.
JSPL had signed an MoU with the state government in May 2002 for setting up an integrated steel plant.
Stating that it had not deliberately flouted the orders, the Odisha government said the department of steel and mines was faced with difficulty in processing BPSL's recommendation due to overlapping areas with other applicants, including Larsen & Toubro and Tata Iron and Steel.