Legal Analysis: Cognizance and Offenses in Illegal Sand Mining Cases

Explore the detailed legal analysis surrounding cognizance and offenses in cases related to illegal sand mining. The court’s decision plays a pivotal role in determining the course of legal proceedings, especially in the context of environmental impacts and regulatory frameworks. Stay tuned to uncover the complexities of the law in safeguarding natural resources and upholding environmental protection.


  • State of Madhya Pradesh supported the order passed by the learned Magistrate before the High Court but filed a special leave petition.
  • Private appellants and others approached the High Court to quash FIRs for illegal mining/transportation of sand under Section 482, Cr.P.C.
  • Contended that the order to register FIRs is unsustainable due to Section 22 of the MMDR Act.
  • Argued that compounding of the offence under Rule 53 of the 1996 Rules should prevent fresh proceedings to avoid ‘double jeopardy’.
  • Mining officers submitted cases to the Collector for approval.
  • The High Court dismissed all the applications based on the decision in the case of Sanjay (supra).

Also Read: Transfer of Writ Petitions for Chartered Accountants’ Tax Audit Guidelines


  • The State of Madhya Pradesh has supported the private appellants – violators in the case.
  • The order passed by the learned Magistrate directing to lodge/register FIRs for offences under Sections 379 and 414, IPC is contested as unsustainable.
  • The decision of the court in the case of Sanjay was referred to, which discussed the policy and object of the MMDR Act and Rules.
  • The question of whether the MMDR Act excludes the provisions of the Penal Code when an act constitutes an offence under both was considered.
  • The submission by the private appellants’ counsel highlighted various points regarding the legality of initiating criminal proceedings and filing FIRs against them under the MMDR Act.
  • The counsel argued that the Magistrate does not have the jurisdiction to direct the registration of FIRs under the MMDR Act and that compounding of offences is provided for in the Rules.
  • The appellants, feeling aggrieved by the judgment and order to not quash the FIRs, have filed the present appeals.
  • The State of Madhya Pradesh, though initially supporting the FIRs, has filed a separate petition challenging the High Court’s order.
  • Various environmental impacts and consequences of illegal sand mining were discussed in relation to the violation cases.
  • The impact of sand mining on rivers, aquifers, water table, beach erosion, and economy was highlighted.
  • Illegal sand mining was linked to erosion, flood intensity, pollution, and other environmental damages according to reports referenced.
  • Tourism may be affected through beach erosion.
  • Fishing, both traditional and commercial, can be affected through destruction of benthic fauna.
  • The insurance sector is affected through exacerbation of the impact of extreme events such as floods, droughts, and storm surges through decreased protection of beach fronts.
  • Agriculture could be affected through loss of agricultural land from river erosion and the lowering of the water table.

Also Read: Interpretation of Wildlife Protection Act: Schedule I Species Identification


  • Taking cognizance of an offence at the initial stage allows the police to arrest without a Magistrate’s order.
  • The purpose of the inquiry under Section 202 is to determine if there is a prima facie case against the accused.
  • Cognizance of an offence depends on the circumstances of the case and the actions taken by the Magistrate.
  • Levying penalties on violators for environmental damage is insufficient; stricter actions are necessary.
  • The erosion caused by illegal sand mining impacts river ecosystems and infrastructure.
  • Cognizance of an offence is distinct from the issuance of process by the Magistrate.
  • The procedure for initiating and commencing proceedings under the Code of Criminal Procedure is different.
  • In-stream sand mining affects river characteristics and can lead to ecological imbalance.
  • The State’s duty is to prevent ecological damage and protect public property like sand and mines.
  • Compounding of offences under MMDR Act may bar further proceedings under the Act, not under IPC.
  • The Magistrate’s order for police investigation pre-cognizance does not constitute taking cognizance of the offence.
  • The complexities of cognizance, investigation, and compounding under MMDR Act must be considered for legal proceedings.
  • The Magistrate’s role in taking cognizance is crucial before further legal actions can be initiated.
  • The expression ‘cognizance’ has not been defined in the Code.
  • Cognizance can be taken by a Magistrate upon receiving a complaint, a police report, information from a person other than a police officer, or even upon his own information or suspicion of an offense being committed.
  • The term ‘cognizance’ has acquired a definite meaning from various judicial precedents.
  • The Magistrate is competent to exercise his discretion in deciding whether an offense has been made out or not, irrespective of the view expressed by the police in their report.
  • Cognizance is taken when a Magistrate applies his mind and is satisfied that the allegations, if proved, would constitute an offense, leading to the initiation of proceedings against the alleged offender.
  • Taking cognizance is different from filing of a complaint.
  • Cognizance is the point when a court or a Magistrate first takes judicial notice of an offense.
  • Natural resources, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, are meant for public use and cannot be converted into private ownership.
  • The Public Trust Doctrine entitles the State to hold natural resources as trustee for the free and unimpeded use of the general public.
  • The State has a legal duty to protect and improve natural resources, safeguard the environment, and preserve the ecological balance.
  • A Magistrate may take cognizance of an offence upon receiving a complaint, a police report, information from a person other than a police officer, or upon his own knowledge.
  • Section 204 of the CrPC deals with the issuance of process and requires payment of process fees before issuing any process.
  • Section 190 of the CrPC empowers a Magistrate to take cognizance of an offence in certain circumstances.
  • The determination of whether a Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case.
  • Chapters XIV and XV of the CrPC relate to the initiation of proceedings and complaints to Magistrates respectively.
  • Section 200 of the CrPC requires a Magistrate to examine the complainant and witnesses on oath before proceeding.
  • Section 202 of the CrPC allows the Magistrate to decide whether to issue process against the accused based on sufficient grounds for proceeding.
  • The learned Magistrate can order the concerned In-charge/SHO to lodge a crime case/FIR under Section 156(3) of the Code even for offences under the MMDR Act without the bar of Section 22 being attracted.
  • The bar under Section 22 of the MMDR Act applies only when the Magistrate takes cognizance and orders process/summons for offences under the Act.
  • Magistrate can take cognizance of IPC offences without waiting for a complaint from the authorised officer for MMDR Act violations.
  • After a crime case is registered for MMDR Act violations, the investigating officer’s report can be sent to both the Magistrate and the authorised officer for further legal action.
  • Offenders can compound offences under Section 23A(1) of the MMDR Act, leading to no further proceedings under MMDR Act but IPC offences like theft and receiving stolen property will still be pursued.

Also Read: Privacy Rights Violation in Affixing Covid-19 Posters


  • Appeals filed by violators/private appellants partly allowed, quashing proceedings for offences under MMDR Act – Sections 4/21 only
  • State of Madhya Pradesh appeal dismissed


Case Number: Crl.A. No.-000824-000825 / 2020

Click here to read/download original judgement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *