Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Katakey panel urges HC to probe coal illegalities


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, March 20: The one-member committee headed by Justice (retired) BP Katakey on the coal illegalities, appointed by the High Court of Meghalaya, has sought the immediate intervention of the court for expeditious probe into illegal coal mining activities in Meghalaya.
In his 21st interim report submitted before the court on March 12, Justice Katakey recommended expeditious completion of investigation into Khliehriat police station Case No. 87(11)2023 and all other cases relating to the illegal coal mining activities in Meghalaya and filing of reports before the appropriate courts of law.
The committee also recommended for extension of deadline for transportation of re-assessed/re-verified inventoried coal from pithead to the designated depot in South West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills districts as the transit passes for most of the quantities of such coal found in these districts have already been issued and such coal is in transit to the designated depot.
Moreover, in South West Khasi Hills District, two original coal owners having died in the meantime, and people claiming to be their legal heirs have requested time to produce the proof in support of that.
However, in East Jaintia Hills District the remaining quantity of 1,34,608.662 MT of re-assessed/re-verified inventoried coal may be confiscated /seized in terms of the order dated February 9, 2024, passed by the high court, as the coal owners have not shown any interest for transportation to the designated depots.
The committee also recommended grant of further 30 days’ time to the successful auction purchasers of re-assessed/re-verified inventoried coal auctioned by the CIL, for deposit of the entire auction value, keeping in view the time required from the date of issuance of the notice for auction till lifting of the auctioned coal by the auction purchasers, and forfeiture of the earnest money in the event of failure to deposit such value within the said period of time and also to put such quantity of coal to re-auction.
The committee also recommended issuance of directions to the deputy commissioners and the superintendents of police of the concerned districts to ensure filing of the appropriate applications before the appropriate courts of law for auction of the coal seized under the provisions of MMDR Act, so that entire such coal could be sold in public auction at the earliest.
According to the committee, there is a need for audit of the Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (MEPRF) for verification as to whether the amount sanctioned and released by the oversight committee for implementation of different projects are utilized for the purpose for which it was released.
Justice Katakey also called for completion of the process of the audit of source of coal used by the ferro alloy plants and captive thermal power plants of the cement factories and to take the consequential action within a month.
The panel recommended for time-bound implementation of the project of closure of mine pits which causes danger not only to the livestock but also to the villagers as those are available all over the mining areas of the four coal districts and are not fenced.
It also called for taking urgent steps for restoration of the damages caused to the environment by coal mining activities for which adequate fund is also available in MEPRF, besides directing the state government to make immediate provisions for alternate livelihood for the families who have been impacted by the ban of illegal coal mining activities so as to dissuade them from indulging in the illegal mining activities and a large number of persons are/were involved in the coal mining activities in the state and the mining activities in terms of the provisions contained in the MMDR Act is yet to commence.
The committee also recommended for conduct of drone survey of the concerned districts, after transportation of entire re-assessed/re-verified inventoried coal to the designated depots, so as to find out availability of any more coal on the surface, which than are to be seized and sold under the provisions of the MMDR Act.
It also sought urgent filing of appropriate application before the appropriate court of law so as to put such coal, to be seized under the MMDR Act in public auction, subject to the order that may be passed.


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