The Meghalaya High Court, on September 26, asked the state government to initiate a comprehensive process for permitting mining of coal in the state.
“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 (MMDR) Act of 1957,” a full bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said in its order passed while hearing a PIL on the matter.
The bench also directed the state government to come up with final plans for auctioning and transportation of the over 31.26 lakh of already extracted coal lying in different parts of the state.
“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,” it said.
The order said for the first time, Justice BP Katakey had submitted his sixth interim report had indicated that positive and satisfactory measures have, finally, been taken which should aid in the ultimate implementation of the outstanding directions and the sale of all the coal by the end of calendar year 2023.
The interim report also stated that the Secretary to the government of Meghalaya, 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 the West Khasi Hills District.
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 bench said.
The sixth interim report also referred 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.
A report dated September 19, 2022 has been filed by the State, inter alia, 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 such report, which appears at page 8 thereof, 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 bench has also decided to recall its order dated September 7, in its entirety and said, “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.”
Meanwhile, the bench has directed the government to pay a further ad hoc remuneration of Rs. 2 lakh to Justice Katakey.
The next hearing will be held on October 18.