The Mines Act, 1952

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The Mines Act, 1952 came into force on 1st July, 1952. The provisions of the said Act came into force on different dates but not later than 31st December, 1953 as has been mentioned in the Act. The applicability of the Act is extended to the whole of India. Mines Act, 1952 was legislated with the purpose of regulating the health and safety of laborers working in the mines.

Mines Act, 1952 consists of 88 sections divided into 10 chapters. The said act came into existence solely for the safety and health and welfare of workers working in the mines. The act however, defines as to what is a mine. As per clause (j) of section 2 of the Act, mine means the place where any excavation work is carried on for the searching and obtaining of minerals. Minerals as per clause (jj) of section 2 means those substances which can be obtained from the earth by means of digging, dredging, drilling, mining or through other operations. Minerals as per this clause also include mineral oils which mean natural gas and petroleum.

Chapter 2 of the Act deals with Inspectors and Certifying surgeons. Section 5 provides that there should be an appointment of one chief inspector that would be regulating all the territories in which mining is done and an inspector for every mine who would be sub ordinate to the chief inspector. Moreover, the District Magistrate is also empowered to perform the duties of an inspector subject to the orders of the Central Government. However, the Act restricts the District Magistrate from exercising such powers under sections 22, 22A and 61 of the Act.

The chief inspector or any of the inspectors would make such inquiry, at any time whether day or night, in order to check whether the law is being abided in the mines or not. However, they would not exercise their rights in such a way which would obstruct the work in mines. The inspector would inquire about the safety, welfare and health of the persons working in the mine along with the conditions of the mine. While making inquiry and examining the conditions of the mine, the chief inspector or any inspector has reason to believe that any offence is being committed, in that case, the inspector would be empowered to initiate search and seizure as mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

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The certifying surgeon is appointed under section 11 of the Act. Any medical practitioner can be appointed as certifying surgeon for a group of mines as notified by the Central Government. The certifying surgeon has the power to appoint qualified medical practitioner to exercise such powers which the certifying surgeon would specify. The certifying surgeon and the qualified medical practitioner would examine the persons working in the mine and the exercise of such medical supervision would be prescribed by the Central Government.

Chapter 5 the of the Act deals with health and safety of the workers.  Section 19 provides that there should be the facility of safe drinking water in every mine and that each such point should be legibly marked as “Drinking Water” in such languages as is understood by the people working there. There would be accessibility of first aid boxes or the cupboards filled with such contents and a person trained in such first aid treatment should be available during the working hours of the mines. A conveyance should be readily available in cases where there is a need to take any person to the nearest dispensary or hospital. The number of first aid boxes should be such as prescribed by the central government however, in places where there are more than hundred and fifty workers, in such cases, the size of the room should be such which can occupy all the workers along with first aid boxes and required number of nurses.

The mines act, 1952 was amended in 1983 which provided a new law for the mine workers. It provides that the person working in the mine should not be less than eighteen years of age. If in case a child is seen to be working in the mine, in such a case,  the owner, manager or agent of such a mine should be held responsible and a penalty of rupees five hundred would be imposed upon him. Since there is a lesser penalty imposed upon the owner, manager or agent, so the parliament has drafted a new amendment bill in 2011 which is still pending. Therefore, the new amendment bill would bring beneficial changes in favor of the workers working in the mines.

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by Neha Dayal.