SC extends its order prohibiting mining by OMC in AP

The Supreme Court extended its interim order banning mining and transportation of iron ore by Obulapuram Mining Company, owned by the Reddy brothers, in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh

The Supreme Court on Monday extended its interim order banning mining and transportation of iron ore by Obulapuram Mining Co Pvt Ltd (OMC), owned by the Reddy brothers, in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, reports PTI.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice BS Chauhan decided to continue with its 17 December 2009 order after both the Andhra Pradesh Government and OMC preferred that the matter be heard by the Supreme Court instead of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The Supreme Court had stayed the High Court order allowing the mining and transportation of iron ore by OMC.

Attorney general GE Vahanvati appearing for the Andhra Pradesh Government assailed the High Court order which allowed the mining activities despite the apex court—appointed by the central empowered committee (CEC)—and the government appointed three-member committee pointing out irregularities in the mining operation which was carried out by encroaching on the forest area.

He said the committee criticised Karnataka minister G Janardhana Reddy and his brother for the illegal mining done by them in the Bellary reserve forest.

Mr Vahanvati said that the CEC report alleged that OMC had extended the area of mining operations by removing the pillars which formed the boundary of the area for which the lease was granted.

Further, he submitted that the company had not allowed the carrying out of the survey in the area.

The attorney general argued that the matter was of serious concern as there was "complete breakdown" of law and order and around 1,95,000 tonnes of minerals were being mined "illegally" from the encroached area.

Senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for the public interest litigation (PIL) petitioner, made submissions on similar lines and alleged that the Reddy brothers have taken the whole area as their fiefdom.

OMC countered the allegations through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who alleged that the private matter has been turned into a political battle. He said that even the issue of survey, which had been raised, was not the order of the apex court.

Mr Rohatgi also argued that there was no order for the CEC to give a report about the mine in question and the same was prepared without giving any notice to the party. He accused the Telugu Desam Party of giving the private matter the colour of a political battle.

Pointing out that the company was having lease for three mines and the report was only related to one of them, he requested the apex court to allow the company to carry out mining activities in the rest of the two.

The Bench observed that the main allegation against the company was that it has exceeded the boundary line. It said it would be for the High Court to hear the parties to pass an appropriate order on the merits of the case at the earliest. However, the parties urged the apex court to hear the matter.


Small and green cars to be the flavour of 10th Auto Expo

The 10th Auto Expo will open in New Delhi on Tuesday with over ten global launches and previews of small and green cars by the likes of Honda and Toyota, during the week-long event

The 10th Auto Expo will open in New Delhi on Tuesday with over ten global launches and previews of small and green cars by the likes of Honda and Toyota during the week-long event—billed as the world's biggest in terms of footfalls, reports PTI.

"The Indian auto expo has been gaining stature with international original equipment manufacturers launching their global models as they do in other auto shows in the world," Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) president Pawan Goenka told reporters.

He said that over ten global launches and a total 50 new launches, which include variants of different existing models, will be held during the expo.

Companies like Honda and Toyota are expected to launch global concepts of their compact cars, while the expo will also see automobile companies showcasing their green technologies.

Earlier last month, SIAM director general Dilip Chenoy had stated the expo will "possibly be the largest in terms of footfalls", and it could be the third biggest after Frankfurt and Shanghai in terms of participants.

"This will be the largest show ever held at Pragati Maidan and the largest auto expo ever held in India," Auto Expo steering committee chairman Rajive Kaul said.

A total of 2,105 participants, including 800 from overseas, will be taking part in the expo showcasing their products in over 1.25 lakh sq mt of area that is expected to attract nearly 20 lakh visitors.

Around 20 lakh people are expected to visit the expo this year, which has been shortened by two days compared to the previous one held in 2008, in the face of the global slowdown.

"We are reducing the duration of the expo by two days. This has been done on feedback from participants and members, and it is for cutting expenditure due to the economic condition," Mr Kaul had said last month.

While the Tata Nano was the star attraction of the last auto expo, this time the company will be launching four new models in different vehicle categories.

Maruti Suzuki India will launch its new multi-purpose vehicle Eeco. Volkswagen will introduce the much-awaited Polo in the Indian market.


Mercedes India sales fall by 10%, loses top position to BMW

During 2009, Mercedes India's car sales fell by over 10% and it lost leadership position to rival German automaker BMW

German luxury car maker Mercedes on Monday said that it has lost leadership position in the premium segment in India to rival BMW and reported a decline of 10.4% in sales in the country for the last year.

However, the company is expecting a double-digit growth during this year on the back of a host of new launches.

"We are behind BMW in 2009 because of limited availability of our E-Class car. I don't want to focus on leadership. We want to have a profitable growth," Mercedes Benz India managing director and chief executive Wilfried Aulbur told reporters.

The company sold 3,247 units in 2009 against 3,625 units in 2008 in India, he added. Rival BMW sold 3,619 units in 2009. "We see a very strong growth in 2010 and it will be a blockbuster year for us. We are very bullish and we expect it will be a high double-digit growth," Mr Aulbur said.

When asked if the company would try to push its sales by offering discounts on its models to overtake BMW, Mr Aulbur said, "The focus is on profitable growth, overall discount is detrimental and it is not our focus. Just to generate volumes is not a good strategy."

The company today launched a new version of its luxury sedan S-Class and sports utility vehicle GL in the country priced at Rs95 lakh and Rs64 lakh respectively.

"The S500L will be assembled at our plant and it will be the most expensive luxury sedan ever produced in India. We will import the GL350CI as a completely built unit," Mr Aulbur said.


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