The Meghalaya High Court has today threatened to take stringent action against the State government if it failed to prosecute the persons who indulged in or continue to indulge in illegal coal-mining.
The full bench of the High Court which was hearing a suo motu PIL on illegal coal mining in the State also sought a complete report from the government regarding action taken against illegal miners.
“It appears that the State may be less than willing to prosecute the persons who indulged in or continue to indulge in illegal coal-mining, for obvious reasons. An extreme adverse inference may be drawn by the court if the State is found lacking in such regard and a comprehensive report of how the State is proceeding with vigour against the illegal miners is not placed before the court,” the High Court said.
The High Court also directed the Chief Secretary to also explain why a recommendation should not be made by the court for taking appropriate action against the official in view of the abject failure of the State government to comply with the directions issued several years back by NGT, Supreme Court and the B P Katekey Committee on the matter.
Further, the High Court directed the State government to take immediate steps to dispose of the previously mined coal “so that freshly mined coal cannot be mixed up with the previous coal and an excuse proffered that the freshly mined coal was also a part of the previously mined coal”.
“For the purpose of ensuring the speedy disposal of coal, the Coal India Limited is added as a party to the present proceedings. Coal India Limited will be represented before Justice Katakey and ensure that the previously mined coal is disposed of as expeditiously as possible,” the court said.
During today’s hearing, Justice B P Katakey (Retd), who has been appointed to oversee and ensure that all the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT pertaining to coal mining in the State are implemented, has filed the first interim report dated June 20.
Justice Katakey’s report includes a detailed chart indicating the recommendations made in the preliminary report filed by him, the action taken as per a report received on June 4 and the action taken as per a further report received on June 15.
“On a preliminary reading of the first interim report, it is evident that a majority of the directions are yet to be implemented though such directions were issued several years back. Let a copy of the first interim report be made over to the State for the State’s comments on the extent of compliance as indicated in such report,” the High Court said.
While asking the State government to comment on the first interim report filed by Justice Katakey, the High Court said by the next hearing on July 12, the government should be ready with timelines that should meet the approval of Justice Katakey, for the implementation of all the directions issued in the relevant orders passed by the Supreme Court and the NGT.
The High Court also said that for the moment, Justice Katakey will be paid a further ad hoc remuneration of Rs 1.50 lakh and he will also be entitled to run a secretariat till the present commission lasts at an expense not exceeding Rs 30,000 per month.
Meanwhile, the State government has filed a report before the High Court by way of an affidavit affirmed on June 20 by the Commissioner in the Mining and Geology Department.
Affidavits have also been filed by the Central Pollution Control Board, the North-Eastern Space Applications Centre and the Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Copies of all affidavits filed in these proceedings would be sent to Justice Katakey.