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Meghalaya HC recalls contempt case against CS on illegal coal mining

According to a bar-chart appended to the report, the total amount of coal available for auction by Coal India Limited is or is expected to be about 31,26,025 MT.  

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Shillong: The full bench of the Meghalaya High Court has recalled its previous order of contempt proceedings against the State Chief Secretary after “some positive measures” have now been taken by the State government regarding measurement of all the mined coal lying in the State.

During the hearing on Monday, the High Court pointed out that a report dated September 19, 2022, has been filed by the state indicating the measurement of all the coal lying in the state except for a couple of places. 

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According to a bar-chart appended to the report, 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. It is hoped that the exercise is completed as planned and charted out,” the court said.

The state report was also placed before Justice B P Katakey (retired), who has been appointed by the High Court to ensure that the outstanding directions issued by the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal are complied with. 

“For the first time, Justice Katakey in his latest interim report – the sixth interim report dated September 21, 2022 – which was filed before the High Court 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 mined coal by the end of calendar year 2023,” the court noted. 

Referring to paragraph 3.2 of Justice Katakey’s sixth interim report, the court stated that the Secretary, 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 reverified/reassessed inventoried coal would be completed within a week and the same place before Justice Katakey.

The 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.

In his report, Justice Katekey has proposed to undertake random physical verification of all the areas to verify about the steps taken by the government and Coal India Limited. 

The sixth interim report also refers 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.

“In view of the above, the part of the order dated September 7, 2022 which had been kept in abeyance is recalled in its entirety. 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,” the court said, adding that 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 Act of 1957,” the Court said.

The full bench also directed that final plans for transportation and auction and the process of auction started, if possible, should be placed before the matter is taken up at the next hearing in October.

Meanwhile, the court also asked the State government to pay a further ad hoc remuneration of Rs 2 lakh to Justice Katakey. 

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