HC ‘satisfied’ with steps taken by govt to end coal illegalities

SHILLONG, Sep 26: The High Court of Meghalaya on Monday recalled part of its order dated September 7, 2022 which had been kept in abeyance and hoped that appropriate steps in right earnest will be taken to ensure that all the outstanding directions of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal are complied with and that illegal coal-mining in the state is completely arrested.
The Court in its order observed that it is somewhat unfortunate that it is only pursuant to that part of the previous order of September 7, 2022 which was kept in abeyance that some positive measures have now been taken by the state.
The court, in its order on September 7, had issued a suo motu contempt notice to the state’s chief secretary and the mining secretary for flagrant and deliberate violation of its previous orders and for their wilful failure in prohibiting illegal coal mining in the state.
During the hearing on Monday, it pointed out that a report dated September 19, 2022 has been filed by the state indicating the measurement of all the coal lying in the state except for at a couple of places. According to a bar-chart appended to the report, the total amount of coal available for auction by Coal India Limited is or is expected to be about 31,26,025 MT.
“The transportation of such coal in a phased manner over the next five quarters has been indicated in the same chart. It is hoped that the exercise is completed as planned and charted out,” the court said.
The order further read that the state’s report of September 19, 2022 was placed before Justice (retired) BP Katakey.
“For the first time, Justice Katakey’s latest interim report (sixth report) dated September 21, 2022 indicates that positive and satisfactory measures have been taken which should aid in the ultimate implementation of the outstanding directions and the sale of all the coal by the end of 2023,” the order stated.
It pointed out that at paragraph 3.2 of Justice Katakey’s sixth interim report, it has been stated that the Secretary of Mining and Geology department and the representative of Coal India Limited had submitted before Justice Katakey that the process of finalisation of the revised comprehensive plan for transportation and auction of the re-verified/reassessed inventorised coal would be completed within a week and the same placed before Justice Katakey.
“Such interim report also speaks of the completion of the re-verification and reassessment of inventorised coal at the 24 locations indicated in the third interim report of May 23, 2022, except at two locations in West Khasi Hills district,” the court said.
According to the order, Justice Katakey has also reported that the chief secretary had submitted a report on the implementation of the outstanding directions. This, obviously, refers to the report dated September 19, 2022 which has been filed in Court.
“Random physical verification is proposed to be undertaken by Justice Katakey and the sixth interim report speaks of “positive steps taken by the Chief Secretary” and that orders of this Court appear now “to bear the fruit…” the order said.
It also informed that the sixth interim report also refers to 92,269.43 MT of recently illegally mined coal that has to be dealt with under the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
“In view of the above, the part of the order dated September 7, 2022 which had been kept in abeyance is recalled in its entirety. It is hoped that appropriate steps in right earnest will be taken to ensure that all the outstanding directions of the Supreme Court and the NGT are complied with and that illegal coal-mining in the state is completely arrested,” the court in its order said.
It added that a comprehensive process may be initiated by the state government, at its discretion, for permitting mining of coal upon due adherence to the provisions of the Act of 1957.
“Let a further ad hoc remuneration of Rs 2 lakh be paid to Justice Katakey. Final plans for transportation and auction should be placed before the matter is taken up next and the process of auction started, if possible. The matter will appear three weeks hence on October 18,” the court order read.

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