SHILLONG, April 5 (PTI): The Meghalaya High Court rapped the chief secretary on Monday for failing to take action against government officials who “looked the other way” and “actively aided” illegal coal mining in the state.
Hearing a suo motu PIL, the three-member full-bench of the high court said the time frame set to dispose of the previously mined coal was not been adhered to, leading to fresh illegal mining of coal, which was attempted to be passed off as coal that was mined earlier.
“This could not have happened without the active connivance of the local administration. There has to be accountability and this aspect of the matter has to be immediately focussed so that a message is sent loud and clear that the watchdogs would be proceeded against if anything remiss is found under their watch,” the court said.
The court said that the report filed by chief secretary RV Suchiang on the issue singularly lacks in indicating actions taken against local officials “who not only looked the other way while the illegal mining thrived, but may have actively aided therein”.
Maintaining that the PIL is not to inquire afresh into the matter already covered by the Supreme Court, the bench said the present exercise is limited to ensuring that all the directions issued by the apex court and NGT are followed and implemented.
The court also suggested that a committee be set up to ensure better compliance with the directions and detect the failures of the administration.
In the report filed on April 1, the chief secretary had said that more than 3,500 trucks were seized for violating the NGT order, banning the transportation of coal.
On this, the court said there ‘appears’ to be that some action was taken, though it is not clear from the report as to whether all the directions by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with.