SC seeks Centre’s reply on plea claiming duty evasion on iron ore export

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s reply on a PIL alleging export of iron ore in the form of pellets, a methodology adopted by some private firms to avoid export duty.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO Common Cause, cited top court judgments on iron ore mining and export before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana. He contended that a parliamentary committee had emphasised the export of iron ore should be discouraged, as this natural resource is meant for domestic consumption.

After hearing the arguments in the matter, the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, asked the Centre to file its response in the matter within four weeks.

Bhushan added that a 30 percent export duty has been levied to discourage export of iron ore, but some companies have found a way to skirt this heavy duty. He said companies are exporting iron ore in the form of pellets, which helps them to avoid the duty.

Advocate M.L. Sharma, who had filed a PIL on the same matter, appeared before the top court as a caveator. He claimed that Bhushan has used the content of his petition and urged the court to not entertain his petition.

The bench took strong exception to this intervention in an ongoing and told Sharma to allow Bhushan to argue his matter. “Notice (on Sharma’s petition) has already been issued. Does it stop Bhushan from filing another case,” it noted.

It clarified that it is allowing Bhushan’s plea, which does not mean that the court have disallowed Sharma’s petition.

Concluding the hearing on the matter, the bench told Sharma: “We respect you. You expose things for good causes. But others are also entitled to file PILs.”

The top court, in January this year, had sought response from Centre and 61 iron exporting firms on a PIL filed by Sharma seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for exporting iron ore to China since 2015.