The State government today informed the Meghalaya High Court that several of the illegal coke plants in the State had already been demolished before the Supreme Court’s order was passed on August 7.
During a hearing in the court today, Advocate General Amit Kumar said that 39 illegal coke plants have been demolished in West Khasi Hills and five in East Jaiñtia Hills.
As to the disposal of the previously mined coal, Kumar assured the High Court that the schedule which had been furnished to the court is being adhered to.
However, the petitioner in a PIL on the matter said that apart from the flourishing of the illegal coke plants, several other industries are operating which use the illegally-mined coal, to the knowledge of the State, but no action has been taken against the same.
“If such is the case, it is hoped that the State is mindful of the same and takes appropriate action in such regard,” the High Court said.
Champer M. Sangma, Shailendra Kumar Sharma, Monu Kumar who are the petitioners told the High Court that the kingpins running the illegal coal mining industry roam around freely for obvious reasons.
The Advocate General, however, tried to suggest that the real persons have been hunted down or are being proceeded against. He said that the State government has taken serious steps in such regard in conjunction with the Assam Police since several of the kingpins may be operating from out of the State.
In the matter pertaining to the illegal transportation of coal, the petitioner said that although the State government pretends to move against the kingpins in the illegal coal industry, the government officials who have been actually hand in gloves with the masterminds have not been arrested and prosecuted.
The petitioner also said that that there are documents on record which, prima facie, reveal the nexus between a section of the State government officials and those running the illegal coal industry and the transportation of the illegally-mined coal and unless the State government addresses the issue, the larger malaise cannot be tackled.
Meanwhile, the High Court has directed the Secretary, Department of Mining to file an affidavit in response to the critical observations made in the sixteenth interim report filed by Justice B P Katakey (retired) who has been appointed by the court to oversee the disposal of the previously illegally-mined coal and to monitor the steps taken by the State government to ensure compliance with the orders passed by the NGT and the Supreme Court prohibiting unscientific mining of coal in the State.
“There are several observations, some of them critical of the State and the action taken or the lack of it. The State, in particular, will respond to such observations by way of an affidavit to be filed by the Secretary in the Department of Mining,” the court said while listing the matter for hearing on August 29.