NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned the transportation of extracted coal lying at various sites in Meghalaya which has had no success in rescuing 15 miners trapped inside an illegal rat-hole coal mine for almost a month.
The order was passed by a bench comprising justices A K Sikri and S A Nazeer which refused the plea of miners to allow them to transport the extracted coal at various places.
The bench issued a notice to the Meghalaya Government, the Centre and others seeking their response on various issues connected with coal mining in the state and posted the matter for hearing February 19.
"Till the next date of hearing there would not be any transportation of any coal lying on the sites," the bench said.
During the hearing, the bench also asked senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and the advocate general of Meghalaya, Amit Kumar, as to why the state has not been able to stop illegal and unauthorised mining.
When the law officer said that the state government was trying its best to control illegal mining, the bench expressed its displeasure by citing the tragedy in which 15 miners have not been rescued.
The court said that this incident shows that illegal mining continues unabated despite the ban and the state may not be supporting it but has failed to contain illegal mining.
The top court was hearing pleas filed by several coal miners seeking permission to transport extracted coal which was lying unattended at various places in the state.
However, their plea was opposed by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who has been appointed as an amicus curiae in the case, saying that illegal mining in the state was continuing in the name of transportation of coal.
He referred to the report of the committee headed by retired high court judge in which officials of state government admitted about illegal coal mining.
The report of the three-member committee, headed by retired Justice B P Kakoti of Gauhati High Court, has stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and majority of them were operating illegally.
It also said not only were there any licences or leases, but also no environmental clearance for operation of the majority of the coal mines.
The NGT had constituted the committee in August 2018 to supervise and look into the issue of the environmental restoration plan and other connected matters in Meghalaya.
The committee was constituted during the hearing of the petition which had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya.
It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.