The Supreme Court has observed that a total ban on legal mining, apart from giving rise to illegal mining, also causes huge loss to the public exchequer.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna, and B.R. Gavai said: "A balanced approach of sustainable development ensuring environmental safeguards, needs to be resorted to. At the same time, it also cannot be ignored that when legal mining is banned, it gives rise to mushroom growth of illegal mining, resulting in clashes between sand mafias, criminalisation and at times, loss of human lives."

The Bihar government had moved the apex court challenging an NGT order holding that unless the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) grants approval to the district survey report (DSR) for the purpose of mining of sand, the same cannot be carried out.

Senior advocate Atmaram Nadkarni, representing the Bihar government, submitted that the tribunal has further held that the very invitation of the tenders without preparing the DSR in accordance with its judgment in the case of Satendra Pandey v. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and another could not have been done.

He submitted that the finding of the tribunal is like putting the cart before the horse, and it has also grossly erred in holding that the DSRs prepared by the state government were without following the requisite procedure and without considering the relevant factors.

The bench said: "It is also cannot be disputed that sand is required for construction of public infrastructure projects as well as public and private construction activities. A total ban on illegal mining apart from giving rise to illegal mining also causes huge loss."

Modifying the tribunal order, it said the exercise of preparation of DSR for the purpose of mining in the state of Bihar in all the districts shall be undertaken afresh.

It further added that the same shall be examined by the SEAC within a period of 6 weeks and its report shall be forwarded to the SEIAA within the aforesaid period of 6 weeks from the receipt of it. "The SEIAA will thereafter consider the grant of approval to such DSRs within a period of 6 weeks from the receipt thereon," it added.

The top court said until further orders, "we permit the state government to carry on mining activities through Bihar State Mining Corporation for which it may employ the services of the contractors. However, while doing so, the state government shall ensure that all environment concerns are taken care of and no damage is caused to the environment".

The top court has listed the matter after 20 weeks.