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SC allows Reddy mines to reopen
NEW DELHI: Karnataka's powerful politicians and mining magnates -- the Reddy brothers -- had the last laugh in the ongoing legal battle as the Supreme Court on Monday allowed their Obulapuram mines to resume operation in Andhra Pradesh's Ananthapur district.

The respite for Reddys -- who have been found to be engaged in illegal mining, including in the Bellary reserve forest, by the Centre, AP government and the Karnataka Lokayukta -- was facilitated by an ambiguous report from the SC-appointed Survey of India (SoI) team.

Though the court asked that mining be kept away from the boundary with Karnataka, the Reddys would be thrilled with the order. The ban was hurting the brothers who approached the SC for relief on the ground that they had to meet export commitments.

Significantly, the SoI report to the SC confirmed small encroachments which the Andhra Pradesh government termed critical. But it did not blame anyone for this, leading the SC to allow the Reddys to resume iron ore mining only in undisputed areas. It was also silent on the allegation that the Reddys had encroached into the Bellary reserve forest.

Responding to the plea of Reddy brothers that they be allowed to resume mining to meet their export commitments, a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan said the mining had to be limited to areas which were not in dispute in any manner and it should be 150 metres away from the Karnataka border as per the SoI map.

The order, one of the last ones from the CJI who steps down on Wednesday, lays down that there should be no mining operation in areas shown as overlapping with other mine leases. The Bench warned that any violation of the conditions laid down by the apex court could lead to the permission to resume mining being recalled.

Asking the SoI team to complete the work of demarcating the mine leases as well as the AP-Karnataka state boundary in the area within two months, the Bench said the Reddys have to stop mining as and when the survey team asks them to do so for demarcation purposes.

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