The Meghalaya High Court said that it is impossible that the illegal mining activities and the deposit of freshly mined coal would be conducted with such impunity without the possible connivance of the local administration or even worse.
The matter has been referred to the full complement of Judges of the Court in view of the gravity of the situation and the widespread nature of illegal coal mining in the State despite orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court.
At the request of the Court last week, the Chief Secretary accompanied all three judges to visit Khliehriat and its nearby areas. It was evident even while travelling along the highways that fresh coal had been deposited in mounds on both sides of the road spanning tens of kilometers. The coal looked to be obviously freshly mined as it was shiny black.
On the road from Khliehriat to Amlarem, about a kilometre or two from the Silchar – Shillong National Highway, there is a vantage point from where one can see the valley below. The lower ground is riddled with rigs and tell-tale signs of mining activities and recently constructed hutments. Even along the stretch, for tens of miles, freshly mined coal is dumped on both sides of the road in plain view.
The three judge bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice W. Diengdoh and Justice H. S. Thangkhiew stated that it is necessary to monitor the activities and it is surprising that the State has not resorted to drone photography to monitor the activities in the less accessible areas. It is alarming that District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Officers and even Block Level Officers are in place along with their counterparts from the police right up to the Superintendent of Police; but all of them turn a Nelson’s eye to such illegal activities.
The court said that the directions issued by the Supreme Court have to be complied with. The orders passed by the NGT need to be followed and the recommendations made by the committee set up by the NGT, several of which have been expressly approved by the Supreme Court, have to be implemented.
The court ordered that these directions and recommendations have been set out point by point and the Chief Secretary will deal specifically with each of the directions and recommendations and file a report, when the matter appears four weeks hence, as to the action taken.
The court said that it is more than likely that a committee may be set up to monitor the implementation of the directions and recommendations of which committee must have the freedom and authority to function without any political interference.
Case title: In Re Suo Motu Illegal Mining of Coal in the State of Meghalaya v/s State of Meghalaya
Citation: PIL No. 2 of 2022