SC seeks Centre's reply on PIL alleging export of Iron ore in pellet form by evading export duty

Supreme Court bench took note of the plea of NGO ‘Common Cause’ and asked the Centre to file its response within four weeks

The Supreme Court Friday sought response from the Centre on a PIL alleging export of iron ore in pellet form by some private firms by evading export duty.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N. V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli took note of the plea of NGO ‘Common Cause’ and asked the Centre to file its response within four weeks.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, referred to the apex court judgements on mining and export of iron, saying that even a Parliamentary committee has said that export of iron ore should not be permitted at the cost of domestic companies.

To discourage the iron ore export, imposition of 30% export duty has been provided, Mr. Bhushan said, adding that the ore has been exported in pellet form without paying the duty.

The bench rejected the objection of lawyer M. L. Sharma, who had filed the PIL on the same issue, as a caveator that the NGO being represented by Mr. Bhushan has “stolen” content of his plea and should not be entertained.

“Your (Sharma) petition is already there. Notice has been issued on that. Does it stop (Mr.) Bhushan from filing another case… We are allowing his petition and it does not mean that we are disallowing your plea,” the bench said.

“Why we respect you in that you expose things for good causes. But others are also entitled to file PILs. He (Mr. Bhushan) is filing this petition which will support your cause also," the CJI told Mr. Sharma at the end of the proceedings.

In January this year, the top court had issued notice to the Centre and 61 iron exporting firms on Mr. Sharma’s PIL seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR and probe the alleged duty evasion by them in exporting iron ore to China since 2015.

The plea had said that the companies be prosecuted for alleged evasion of export duty by declaring wrong tariff code to export the iron ore under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992.

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