Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Meghalaya High Court directs relevant authorities to ensure no illegal mining

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The Meghalaya High Court on May 24 has directed all the relevant authorities to  get their acts in order to ensure the complete implementation of the directions  against illegal mining.

The Three Judge Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice H. S. Thangkhiew and Justice W. Diengdoh heard a Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding  Illegal Mining of coal in large areas of the State, without any permission or license or sanction being obtained therefore notwithstanding the law as declared in the Supreme Court judgment of July 3, 2019.

Pursuant to the order dated April 19, 2022 of the High Court a preliminary report has been filed by Justice B.P. Katakey (Retd). The report runs into 41 pages and it is dated May 23, 2022.Voluminous papers in support of the report have also been filed.

The Court held that no copy of the report was directed to be made over to the State for obvious reasons, since the Court first wanted to assess to what extent the orders passed by the Supreme Court and the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT)  had been complied with or implemented by the various authorities.

The preliminary findings in the report dated May 23, 2022 indicate that except for notifying The Meghalaya Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2022 as recently as March 24, 2022, “none of the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court … and the NGT have been complied with by the concerned authorities…”

The authorities that have been specifically mentioned include the State of Meghalaya, the State and Central Pollution Control Boards, the North Eastern Space Application Centre and the Integrated Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

In the preliminary findings the details of the non-compliance have been pointed out. In addition, the report makes recommendations to ensure implementation of the outstanding directions in point form, so that the appropriate agencies can deal with the various aspects.

The Court observed that while it is a matter of regret that orders passed by the Supreme Court and by the NGT continue to be violated and the directions issued are not implemented, it is necessary that the recommendations made in the preliminary report of May 23, 2022 be immediately taken note of and the relevant matters addressed.

It is clarified by the Court  that the time for implementation of the outstanding directions will not be counted from today or from the date of institution of the present suo motu proceedings, but from the relevant dates when such directions were issued.

Therefore the Court directed that Justice Katakey, will continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations, including the outstanding orders and the directions of the Supreme Court and the NGT.

For such a purpose, Justice Katakey will make periodic visits to Shillong, which will be facilitated by the State government. A secretary-level member in the State’s civil service should be attached to Justice Katakey to facilitate the monitoring work.

Copies of the preliminary report dated May 23, 2022 should be made over to Advocate for the State in course of the day. The accompanying papers that have come with the preliminary report should also be made over to the State. The State is requested to have the supporting papers spirally-bound both for the Court and for the State’s use. The preliminary report should be kept outside the spirally-bound papers. All the measures which have been recommended should be addressed as expeditiously as possible , the Bench further directed .

“A copy of the preliminary report together with the attendant papers which have been filed will be made over to the Union through the office of learned Assistant Solicitor-General attached to this Court. All the authorities specifically referred to in paragraph 3.2 of the report dated May 23, 2022 should respond individually to indicate to what extent the outstanding directions have been complied with. The State should ensure that copies of this order and the report are immediately reached to all the authorities referred to in paragraph 3.2 of the preliminary report dated May 23, 2022. The matter will appear four weeks hence. List on June 21, 2022”, the order reads.

On March 02 , the High Court in view of the gravity of the matter, directed to placed the matter before the Full Bench with the full complement of the Judges of the High Court.Later on April 19 , Justice Katakey is appointed for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with.

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