The High Court of Meghalaya has directed the State government to ensure “not an ounce of illegally-mined coal” is allowed to be transported in trucks or other vehicles.
The court told Meghalaya’s Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police that they would be accountable if any form of illegally-mined coal is discovered being transported in the State.
The full bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice W. Diengdoh and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew also directed the two officials and all other police personnel to ensure strict compliance to the order without “bowing to any political interference”.
“The DGP will instruct all superintendents of police in the various districts to ensure that they are put on notice that if illegally-mined coal in the State is found to have originated in or passed through their jurisdiction, they shall be held in contempt,” said while hearing a suo motu PIL on illegal mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya on October 18.
The court observed that a policy was notified by the State on March 5, 2021, for the mining of coal and several applications were received but no licence has been issued for any mining so far.
“Yet, rampant illegal mining of coal continues despite orders of this court dating back, probably, to March of this year. The NGT (National Green Tribunal) and the Supreme Court orders have been in place from 2016 or earlier,” the court’s order read.
The NGT had banned rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya in April 2014.
“Apart from the dangerous form of rat-hole mining that is undertaken, particularly in the eastern part of the state, there are murmurs that illegally-mined coal is smuggled out of the state and is returned for apparent export to a neighbouring country on the basis of fabricated documents to suggest that the coal originated in some other State,” it said.
The court also referred to credible reports that a substantial part of the illegally-mined coal in the State is transported to other States, primarily on trucks bearing Nagaland license plates and with papers showing the coal to have been mined in some other north-eastern State.
“Indeed, it may not be any coincidence that the entire stretch of the National Highway in the Goalpara district of Assam between Dudhnoi and Krishnai is littered with coal dumps on either side of the road replacing agricultural fields. It is of significance that there are at least three roads between Dudhnoi and Krishnai that lead to Meghalaya…,” the order said.
The court further directed the Meghalaya government to ensure that the entirely of the previously-mined coal is disposed of by the end of 2023. It fixed November 9 as the next date of hearing on the measures taken by the Chief Secretary and the DGP to stop all forms of illegal mining of coal in the State.