SHILLONG, Aug 11: The High Court of Meghalaya on Thursday advised the state government to take expeditious steps to dispose of the existing coal in view of allegations that coal continues to be illegally mined in the state.
Hearing a PIL on a suo motu cognisance of illegal mining of coal in Meghalaya, the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice HS Thangkhiew and Justice W Diengdoh also pointed to allegations that newly mined coal is sought to be passed off as having been mined earlier.
The court said that a third interim report was filed by retired judge BP Katakey on August 9, 2022, and it will be open to the appearing parties to obtain copies of the report from a court officer.
“The suggestions and recommendations made in the third interim report are likely to be directed to be implemented, subject to the views expressed by the appearing parties,” the high court said.
“Expeditious steps are also to be taken to dispose of the coal which remains since there are allegations from several quarters that coal continues to be illegally mined in the state and the recently mined coal sought to be passed off as previously mined coal,” the High Court said.
The court also asked Justice Katakey to indicate the exact quantum of coal that remains to be disposed of and the state will render all assistance to ensure that an accurate figure is arrived at.
“Once an accurate figure is available, it would allay fears of freshly mined coal being passed off as coal mined prior to the stoppage directions issued by or about 2017,” the order said.
The court also said Justice Katakey should be paid a further ad hoc remuneration of Rs 1.5 lakh.
Construction around Umiam Lake
The high court also took note of several new construction projects coming up around Umiam Lake and asked the state government to submit a report on such works.
Hearing another PIL on the cleanliness of the lake, a division bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh said although it appears that steps have been taken to clean the Barapani (Umiam) waters and remove the floating garbage along the edge of the water, several new construction projects have been noticed around the lake.
A new café has come up on the eastern side close to a car showroom, the court noted.
“There is a construction coming up on an industrial basis on the same side a few 100 metres down the road. There is also another construction on the northern side and close to the water level near Umiam,” the court said, hoping that all construction activities likely to affect the Umiam waters are monitored.
It also hoped that the authorities would ensure that the construction activities are in accordance with the law and taken up after an environmental impact assessment.
Asking the state to report on the ongoing construction works around Umiam Lake, including the newly finished café referred to, as well as others in the pipeline for which any permission may have been sought or granted, the court hoped measures taken recently continue periodically. It also said both the locals and the tourists should be educated through signboards to ensure there is no littering or dumping of any material into the water.
“Volunteers or the like, preferably from the local areas, may be engaged for such purpose upon payment of some form of honorarium. The state should file an affidavit dealing with the matters referred to in this order. Such an affidavit should be filed within three weeks,” the court said.