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HC calls for central forces to stop illegal coal mining in state

The court has directed the Superintendent of Police, East Jaintia Hills to show cause why punishment for contempt, including detention in jail, should not be suffered by him for the flagrant violation of orders of the court to check the illegal menace of unscientific coal mining.

Staff Reporter

SHILLONG:

The High Court of Meghalaya on Tuesday said that there is need for immediate deployment of either the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) or the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to take over the policing of illegal coal mining activities, including transportation, from the state machinery.

“In the current scenario and considering that the State has been afforded nearly a year to take appropriate measures and the measures adopted by the State have fallen woefully short, it is necessary to call in the Central Armed Police Forces to monitor and stop the illegal activities pertaining to coal mining that continues in the State,” the full bench of the court said.

“Dr. Mozika, learned Deputy-Solicitor General of India, who is present in Court, is requested to take notice on behalf of the Union and to inform this Court, when the matter appears a week hence as to the formalities for the immediate deployment of sufficient units of either the Central Industrial Security Force or the Central Reserve Police Force to completely take over the policing of illegal coal mining activities including the transportation thereof from the State machinery; obviously, at a cost that the State will have to bear for its abject inefficiency,” it said.

The court has directed the Superintendent of Police, East Jaintia Hills to show cause why punishment for contempt, including detention in jail, should not be suffered by him for the flagrant violation of orders of the court to check the illegal menace of unscientific coal mining rampant all over the district and the illegal transportation thereof.

The court expressed concern that the 13 lakh MT of coal together with the several tens of lakhs of illegally-mined coal that has been transported out of the state would show that absolutely nothing has been done by the state in pursuance of subsisting orders of the National Green Tribunal as upheld by the Supreme Court for the complete prohibition of unscientific extraction of coal in the state.

It noted that Justice BP Katakey (retired), who has been tasked by the court for overseeing and ensuring the disposal of the previously mined coal and to take steps to ensure that the recently illegally mined coal is not passed off as previously mined coal, has filed a further interim report on February 6.

The report referred to illegal coal mining and transportation and steps taken by Justice Katakey pursuant a newspaper report on or about January 10, 2023 that three mine workers had reportedly died inside a coal mine in Rymbai in the East Jaintia Hills district.

Three bodies which had been buried on January 10, 2023 were disinterred in terms of the order passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Khliehriat and sent for autopsy to the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences. The autopsy reports are awaited.

The court stated that if 31 cases of illegal transportation have come to light, there must have been several multiples more of illegal transportation that may either have been actively overlooked or may not have come to the notice of the appropriate personnel.

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