The Meghalaya High Court has pulled up the State government for its failure to identify and arrest the owners of all the illegal coke plants that have sprung up across the State.
While hearing a PIL filed by Shailendra Kumar Sharma today, the full bench of the High Court directed the State government to name the persons behind the illegal coke plants and the steps taken as per law to bring them to book.
While listing the matter for hearing on June 8, the High Court also asked Justice B P Katakey to ensure that the illegal coke plants are no longer in operation by the time the matter comes up at the next hearing.
During the hearing, Additional Advocate-General K Khan referred to Justice Katakey’s twelfth interim report filed in a matter pertaining to illegal mining and transportation of coal in the State and several paragraphs in the report indicating how coke plants operating illegally and without any permission have been shut down. Khan also emphasised that 57 illegally operating coke plants have been shut down and steps are being taken against the rest who cannot indicate permission to operate or explain the source of obtaining coal for their operations.
The High Court said that repeated orders of the full bench of the court have pointed out that the present situation, where illegal coal mining has continued blatantly from 2016 despite orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court, no less, prohibiting them, may have been with the tacit support of the State.
“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,” the High Court said.
“Again, 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, the 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,” the High Court added.
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