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Retd Judge BP Katakey To Head NGT Committee

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SHILLONG, April 20 (NNN): The Meghalaya High Court on Tuesday appointed retired Justice BP Katakey to head a committee for recommending the measures to be taken by the state in compliance with the directions issued by the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT), including the sale of already extracted coal.

Hearing a PIL on the matter, the full bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said, “Justice Katakey is appointed for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with.”

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“Justice Katakey will also recommend the measures to be immediately taken to comply with the outstanding directions, including the sale of coal now available, under the aegis of Coal India Limited,” it added.

Earlier in the past, Justice Katakey, a former Judge of the Gauhati High Court, had headed an NGT-constituted committee to look into the coal issue in Meghalaya. However, in January 2020, Katakey resigned as chairman of the NGT committee after failing to get the cooperation of the state government.

Several recommendations were made and a number of the recommendations formed the basis for the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the order of July 3, 2019.

The decision of the bench was based on its previous order passed on April 4, which had proposed that a committee would be set up on the lines as formed by the NGT earlier to ascertain whether the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT had been complied with; and, to the extent that they had not been, how the same could be complied with at the earliest.

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The court said one of the key aspects of the matter is the sale of coal that had already been mined prior to the prohibition on mining by the orders of the NGT. Directions were issued by the Supreme Court for the sale of such coal.

As a result of the sale of the previously mined coal not being completed, illegal coal mining was, in a sense, facilitated by the illegal miners claiming that the freshly mined coal was actually the previously mined coal, it said.

Asserting that it is imperative that the entire stock of coal be sold as expeditiously as possible, the court said, “Justice Katakey has agreed to look into the several aspects of the matter, particularly the extent to which the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with and what more needs to be done for such compliance.”

The court has also asked the former Gauhati High Court Judge to file a preliminary report within four weeks’ time.

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“Justice Katakey should file a preliminary report dealing with the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT that have been complied with and, more importantly, suggesting expeditious steps to comply with the outstanding directions, including the transportation and sale of the available coal.”

Justice Katakey will also look into the measures adopted by the State to ensure that there is no unregulated or illegal coal mining or any instance of rat-hole mining anywhere, it said.

The court further said it will also be open to the state to explore the possibilities of regulating coal mining in accordance with the law, upon ensuring that all illegal coal-mining activities are stopped and the machinery for the illegal mining activities is completely removed and dealt with in accordance with the law.

It has also pulled the state government for its failure to take action against any official involved in illegal coal mining activities.

“Appropriate action also needs to be taken against the persons involved, and it is a matter of regret that despite previous observations in such regard that illegal coal-mining activities could not have been continued without the local administration’s connivance, the State has not taken any action against any official.”

Meanwhile, the court has directed the state government to extend all cooperation to Justice Katakey, including providing for his accommodation and travel for the purpose of completing the exercise in terms of this order as expeditiously as possible.

Earlier during the hearing, the state had claimed that illegal coal-mining activities across the state have been brought to a halt.

Advocate General informed that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been prepared by the State so that, upon obtaining the Centre’s permission under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, prospecting activities can be permitted to ascertain the possibilities of undertaking large-scale extraction upon complying with all the formalities, including the impact thereof on the environment and local inhabitants.

The next hearing will be held on May 24.


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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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