Meghalaya govt, central authorities ignored SC, NGT orders: Report
* Justice Katakey submits preliminary report before High Court * Full bench orders compliance of orders within four weeks
SHILLONG, May 24: A report filed by Justice (retd) BP Katakey before the High Court of Meghalaya on Monday has blamed the state government, the state and central pollution control boards, the North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) and the Integrated Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for non-compliance of the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India and the National Green Tribunal for cracking down on illegal coal mining and transportation in Meghalaya.
The report has drawn the ire of the High Court which said it was a matter of regret that orders passed by the Supreme Court and by the NGT continue to be violated and the directions issued are not implemented.
“It is made clear that the time for implementation of the outstanding directions will not be counted from today or from the date of institution of the present suo motu proceedings, but from the relevant dates when such directions were issued. As such, all relevant authorities should get their acts in order and ensure the complete implementation of the directions within four weeks from date,” said the court order issued on Tuesday.
The court also pointed out that it is necessary that the recommendations made in the preliminary report of May 23, 2022, be immediately taken note of and the relevant matters addressed.
The full bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice HS Thangkhiew and Justice W Diengdoh, while hearing the suo motu PIL on coal illegalities, said, “Pursuant to the order dated April 19, 2022 a preliminary report has been filed by Justice BP Katakey (retd). The report runs into 41 pages and it is dated May 23, 2022. Voluminous papers in support of the report have also been filed.”
The preliminary findings indicate that except for notifying the Meghalaya Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2022 as recently as March 24, 2022, “none of the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court … and the NGT have been complied with by the concerned authorities. The report states in details the non-compliance by the authorities. The report has made recommendations to ensure implementation of the outstanding directions in point form, so that the appropriate agencies can deal with the various aspects.
The court also ordered that Justice Katakey will continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations including the outstanding orders and the directions of the Supreme Court and the NGT.
“For such purpose, Justice Katakey will make periodic visits to Shillong, which will be facilitated by the state government. A secretary-level member in the state’s civil service should be attached to Justice Katakey to facilitate the monitoring work,” the court ordered.
The High Court ordered that copies of the preliminary report submitted by Justice Katakey along with the supporting documents should be handed over to the state and all the concerned authorities so that all the measures which have been recommended should be addressed as expeditiously as possible.
“The state is requested to have the supporting papers spirally-bound both for the Court and for the state’s use. The preliminary report should be kept outside the spirally-bound papers. A copy of the preliminary report together with the attendant papers which have been filed will be made over to the Union through the office of learned Assistant Solicitor-General attached to this Court. All the authorities specifically referred to in the report dated May 23, 2022, should respond individually to indicate to what extent the outstanding directions have been complied with. The state should ensure that copies of this order and the report are immediately reached to all the authorities referred to in the preliminary report dated May 23, 2022,” the order states.
The case will be heard again on June 21.
It is noteworthy that the High Court, in an order issued on April 19, had appointed Justice Katakey to ascertain whether the state government has complied with the directives of the Supreme Court and the NGT for cracking down on illegal coal mining.
Justice Katakey was asked to recommend the measures to be immediately taken to comply with the outstanding directions, including the sale of coal now available under the aegis of Coal India Limited and submit his preliminary report within four weeks.