The Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday asked the State government to submit an independent report on illegal rat-hole coal mining in the state in the wake of media reports on the menace. “An independent report should be filed by the chief secretary to the State and the director general of police when the matter appears a week hence, preferably upon visiting the areas,” a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh directed.
“It is made clear that the matter complained of needs to be looked into, without any political interference; or else, the Court may be constrained to appoint a fact-finding committee or even put a special investigation team in place or take the assistance of some agency so that the matter is appropriately and thoroughly investigated in accordance with law and the persons involved are brought to book,” the Court specified.
Moreover, the High Court called upon the additional advocate general, B Bhattacharjee to immediately communicate the order to the appropriate personnel and underscored that “the matter requires immediate, serious action” and listed the matter for hearing on March 2 next.
“For several months it has been widely reported, inter alia, in the newspapers regarding the illegal coal mining in the State,” the bench observed and referred to an newspaper article which highlighted rat-hole coal mining activities in a “widespread manner” in a particular village along the West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills inter-district boundary.
The HC mentioned that from newspaper reports it also appeared that a complaint had been lodged in this regard by the Nokma (village head) of Nengchigen against certain persons, including the police, alleging widespread illegal mining of coal within the clan lands.
While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned rat-hole coal mining in the state, the unscientific practice has been continuing clandestinely with two coal miners from Assam having recently died inside an illegal mine in the West Khasi Hills district.