SHILLONG- The Meghalaya High Court has once again expressed concern over the unabated illegal mining and transportation of coal in the State, despite the orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court. The court has also raised suspicion that the illegal activities may have been supported by the State government.
A full bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice H S Thangkhiew and W. Diengdoh, while hearing a suo moto PIL filed by one Shailendra Kumar Sharma, observed that,
“ Despite the State and its Chief Secretary being tasked with the obligation to ensure that illegal coal mines did not operate, the industry boomed till suo motu cognisance was taken of the matter by this Court and some form of regulation or control may now be in place. It took public spirited citizens to bring to the notice of this Court that illegal coke plants had mushroomed all over the place without either the State making any effort to ascertain the source of coal used thereat or to check whether such plants had permission to operate.
Shailendra Kumar Sharma of Guwahati filed a public interest litigation in the Meghalaya High Court in the year 2022 against illegal coal mining in Meghalaya and were requested to take cognizance on this issue.
Shailendra’s Advocate Amit Goyal informed that while hearing the complainant, the court had constituted a commission of inquiry under the chairmanship of retired judge DP Katki. The investigation report revealed that 57 illegal coke plants are running in Meghalaya, after which the court directed the government to take immediate action by shutting them down. But this did not happen, the instructions remained only on paper.
But the State highlighted that 57 illegally operating coke plants had been shutdown and action was being taken against the remaining ones. However, the Court emphasized on the need to bring the real culprits to book.
After being goaded by this Court, the State now gloats in its glorious action taken to shut down the illegal coke plants that should never have sprung up in the first place. As to the kingpins, who had obviously been nurtured and protected by the State to run such illegal industry, the State has done absolutely nothing. When queried by the Court, Counsel insists on the steps taken to shut down the illegal plants without so much as a word as to the persons who operated them and acted in flagrant disregard of orders of the Supreme Court,
It also noted that valuable revenue had been lost and several lives had been sacrificed in rat-hole mining and illegal transportation of coal, which the State permitted to flourish.
While Listing the matter again on June 8, 2023 the court directed the State to indicate the persons behind the illegal coke plants that had been set up and the steps taken in accordance with law to bring them to book.