The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned transportation of coal in Meghalaya till February 19, refusing to grant more time to mine owners to transport the coal that has already been extracted.
The apex court ban comes a day after India Today’s special investigative team exposed the dark side of rat-hole mining in Meghalaya. Referring to the India Today report, the court said illegal mining of coal was still on despite the ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The court rapped the Meghalaya government for failing to curb illegal mining and has asked it to file an affidavit, the India Today report says.
It has been a month since 15 miners have been trapped in a rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills District of the state. According to government sources, the rescue operations are still on but may be called off in near future as there are no signs of the trapped men.
On December 4 last year, the Supreme Court, while hearing a plea by the State Coordination Committee of Coal Owners and Mine Dealers’ Forum, had allowed transportation of extracted coal till January 31 this year.
The next date of hearing for final disposal was fixed for January 15. Earlier, the court had extended the deadline for transportation several times.
As on May 31 last year, the extracted coal yet to be transported stood at 1,76, 655 metric tonnes.
A month after 15 miners got trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya, a group of social activists recently released a citizens’ report, urging the Supreme Court to crackdown on coal mining and the coal mafias in the state.
According to the report filed by social activists social activists Agnes Kharshing, Amita Sangma, Angela Rangad, Michael N Syiem, the Meghalaya government “actively colluded in helping coal miners” to extract coal, blatantly flouting the ban set by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In November last year, the Meghalaya government had challenged the NGT ban in the Supreme Court. Human rights lawyer, Colin Gonsalves, was appointed the amicus curiae in the case by the court.
The NGT ban came in April, 2014 following a plea by the All Dimasa Students’ Union and Hasao District Committee. On November 12 last year, the court had appointed senior advocate Colin Gonsalves the amicus curiae as the petitioners were not represented.