Meghalaya HC pulls up chief secretary, asks for report on illegal coke plants
In an affidavit filed on January 27, the deputy commissioner, West Khasi Hills had informed that closure notice has been pasted on each of the 57 coke plants and an FIR has also been filed
The Meghalaya high court on Wednesday directed the chief secretary to file an action taken report against erring officials and confiscation of their assets for the flagrant operation of illegal coke plants in the state.
“The chief secretary will file a report at the first sitting of the Court on February 3, 2023 as to the action taken against the erring officials, including notices of suspension, initiation of departmental proceedings, sequestration of assets and the like for the flagrant operation of illegal coke plants,” the division bench said in its order while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL).
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“The chief secretary will carry the report to the Court and will remain personally liable for any illegal mining of coal or illegal operation of any coke plant in the state. The remainder of the matter will be considered after receipt of the chief secretary’s report,” the bench said.
In an affidavit filed on January 27, the deputy commissioner, West Khasi Hills had informed that closure notice has been pasted on each of the 57 coke plants and an FIR has also been filed at Shallang Police Station.
The bench however stated, “It is completely unacceptable to this Court that a state government or its officials would be unaware of as many as 57 coke plants functioning in a clandestine manner during the night for such illegal plants to be shut down only to pursuant to orders passed by this Court upon receipt of a public interest litigation.”
Stating that it is the bounded duty of the state to ensure that no activity that requires a license is carried on without the license being obtained, the bench said, “Indeed, the state’s stand on the entire issue of illegal mining of coal and functioning of illegal coke plants has been less than satisfactory and, at the highest, equivocal.”
“It is a matter of crying shame that despite orders of the Supreme Court, no less, a state of anarchy is brought about by the State government by flouting such orders and apparently actively aiding in the illegal mining of coal and the functioning of coke plants without licence in the State. The rampant functioning of illegal coke plants leads to the obvious inference of rampant illegal mining of coal in the State despite the State government’s assurance to the contrary,” it said while referring to a fresh petition received pertaining to illegal mining of coal in South Garo Hills.
The DC in the affidavit had also informed that in compliance with the directions in order dated December 16, 2022, an order was issued for taking immediate steps to shut down all illegal coke plants operating in West Khasi Hills District.
“In the ensuing raids, it was found that there were coke plants operating during night in the remote areas clandestinely. The units were immediately shut down and the raw coal and finished product in the form of coke found on the site has been seized in-situ, and its quantity is being determined per plant wise,” the DC said.
The DC said upon determination of quantity the coal and finished coke shall be confiscated and disposed of in accordance with law as per Section 21 of the MMDR Act, 1957.
In addition, thereto the equipment found on site has also been confiscated and which shall also be seized and proceeded with in accordance with law.
Since, the quantity of the material seized required some time for transportation to some government depot, it has been seized at the site and is presently lying on site under custody of the district administration and shall be transported after determination of quantity in due course of time, the DC also said.
The next hearing will be held on February 3.