In Court

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

sole authority: The Madras High Court (HC) has vested the Tamil Nadu government with the exclusive right to carry out sand quarrying activities. In doing so, the HC has upheld a government order (GO) dated October 1, 2003. But the private parties that have not violated environmental laws or breached lease conditions, were entitled to continue their sand quarrying operations till the expiry of their respective lease periods, observed the HC bench comprising Chief Justice B Subhashan Reddy and Justice K Gnanaprakasam. The bench, however, made it clear that the state was at liberty to terminate the leases for government lands after giving six months notice.

The GO had been stayed on October 8, 2003, when it was ordered that neither the petitioners nor the government should quarry sand on the lands in question, covered by leases or court orders. The state government was free to deal with other lands as it thought fit.

Passing the final orders, the bench made it clear that the state was entitled to exploit sand by quarrying through the PWD in its lands not covered by the mining leases of the petitioners. The same was applicable to patta lands subject to the permission of landholders or their tenants, or lessees in occupation and not covered by the mining leases.

left gasping: Cigarette manufacturers in the US suffered a setback when the Florida Supreme Court agreed to review an appeals court ruling overturning a US $145-billion judgement against them. This triggered a drop in their share prices.

A Miami jury had ruled in July 2000 that major cigarette companies had deceived the public about the health implications of smoking. The jury asked the companies to pay US $145 billion in punitive damages to sick Florida smokers, estimated to number 0.3-0.7 million. A state appeals court had later overturned the verdict. Tobacco company stocks tumbled after the latest decision, which leaves the spectre of a potentially crippling court judgement hanging over the industry.

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