The Meghalaya High Court has directed the Chief Secretary (CS) and Director General of Police (DGP) not to bow to any “political interference” while implementing the directive to end illicit coal mining in the state.
While hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the matter, a full bench of the HC stated that “The Chief Secretary, DGP and all other police personnel will ensure strict compliance in such regard.”
Additionally, the court ordered the DGP to instruct all Superintendents of Police (SPs) to ensure that “not a single ounce of illegally-mined coal is allowed to pass whether in trucks or other vehicles”. The court also warned that the CS and DGP will be held accountable if such offences take place in the state.
Besides, the court has also claimed that credible reports demonstrated the fact that a sizeable portion of the illegally-mined coal in the state is transported to other states, primarily on trucks bearing Nagaland license plates and carrying fabricated documents, indicating that the coal was mined in some other northeastern state.
According to the court order, the authorities must complete the process of disposing of the previously-mined coal by the end of 2023.
It has also asked the Coal India Limited (CIL) and MSTC Ltd to provide necessary assistance in the matter and immediately notify the one-man commission if the state fails to comply with the deadlines or if anything prevents the prompt disposal of the previously mined coal.
The court ruled that Justice Katakey will continue to monitor the process regularly. In addition, all requisite information sought from the state government, Coal India Limited (CIL) and Meghalaya State Transport Commission (MSTC) must be provided to the commission.
Despite a ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014, the continuation of the hazardous rat-hole mining in the northeastern state of Meghalaya has raised serious concern among the authorities.
To eliminate the illicit coal mining, the one-man inquiry committee headed by Justice (retd) – B P Katakey recently finalized a comprehensive policy for the transportation and auction of already extracted coal. The one-man commission was appointed by the Meghalaya High Court earlier this year, to forward recommendations to the state government regarding coal-related issues, in compliance with directions issued by the Supreme Court and NGT.