Although the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has expressed its unwillingness to be deployed for the purpose of checking the illegal transportation of coal in the State, the Meghalaya High Court today directed the Union Ministry of Home, through the Union Home Secretary to ensure the deployment of ten companies of the central force for the purpose.
During today’s hearing of a suo motu PIL, Dr. Nitesh Mozika who is the Deputy Solicitor General of India, told the court that the CISF is unwilling to take up the assignment, primarily because the nature of the work does not fall within the usual activities undertaken by such police force.
“Despite the apparent unwillingness on the part of the CISF, once a direction is issued by the court, the relevant force would be bound thereby, subject to its right to have the order tested in the appropriate forum,” the High Court said.
The court also directed the Union Ministry of Home, through the Union Home Secretary to ensure the deployment of ten companies of the central force “to be commanded independently or jointly by the officers from the local police that may be selected by the court, strictly for the purpose of keeping a vigil on the roads and arresting the illegal transportation of illegally mined coal in the State”.
The High Court also directed that the response of the Union Home Secretary should be available at the next hearing on April 27.
The court also said that “this is an unusual situation which has arisen” since despite orders of the Supreme Court, which have been in place since or about 2016, rampant illegal mining of coal has continued in the State and such illegally mined coal has been allowed to be freely transported, even to the extent of being regularly exported to Bangladesh by possible false declarations that the coal originated elsewhere.
“Since the local police force, under the State government, has been completely ineffective or unwilling to control the malaise or implement the orders of the Supreme Court, which they are duty bound to do, it is felt appropriate that an external police force, may be deployed for checking the illegal transportation of illegally mined coal in the State,” the High Court said.
The court also recorded that the State has relied on a notification of March 24, 2022 by which the Meghalaya Mineral (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2022 have been brought into effect. A further notification of July 26, 2022 has also been placed. By such notification, in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 30B of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the State government has constituted special courts in districts for the purpose of speedy trial of offences for contravention of the provisions of sub-section(1) or sub-section (1A) of Section 4 of the Act of 1957. The submission on behalf of the State is that upon the issuance of such notifications, the State has done all within its power to check or stop the illegal mining of coal.
“However, notwithstanding this court recording the State’s submission in a connected matter yesterday, at the insistence of learned Additional Advocate-General, that there was now a system in place which has completely stopped the illegal transportation of coal, an accident has been reported in today’s newspapers of a truck illegally transporting illegally mined coal in Ri-Bhoi district. There is no doubt that both illegal mining and illegal transportation of coal continues and, if the rule of law is to be asserted in this State, it cannot be done with the present machinery available in the State,” the court said.
Meanwhile, Justice B P Katakey has filed his 12th interim report. Most of the report deals with the manner in which the previously mined coal is to be auctioned.
“Previous orders have recorded a timeline for the completion of the process. It is imperative that such timeline is adhered to since freshly mined coal is being sought to be passed off as previously illegally mined coal in the State,” the court said.
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