SC Illegal Coal Mining

Supreme Court: In a case concerning illegal coal mining in the State of Meghalaya, the Vacation Bench comprising Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala, JJ., stayed directions of the Meghalaya High Court directing the dismantling of existing coke plant(s).

However, the Court ordered that the plant(s) shall not operate during the period of stay.

Taking note of widespread activities of illegal coal mining in the State, the Meghalaya High Court had appointed Justice B.P. Katakey for the purpose of ascertaining the extent to which the directions issued by the Supreme Court and the NGT have been complied with and also, to make recommendations regarding measures to be taken to comply with the outstanding directions, including the sale of coal now available, under the aegis of Coal India Limited.

Noticeably, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had earlier constituted a committee headed by Justice Katakey to look into the issue of illegal mining in the State of Meghalaya. Pursuant to the recommendations made by the NGT, the Supreme Court issued detailed directions to the State in State of Meghalaya v. All Dimasa Students Union, (2019) 8 SCC 177 which can be accessed here.

Following the directions of the High Court, Justice Katakey submitted his 41 pages report dated 23-05-2022 which revealed that except for notifying the Meghalaya Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2022 on 24-03-2022, “none of the directions issued by the Supreme Court … and the NGT have been complied with by the authorities concerned…”

By the impugned order, the High Court directed that the authorities concerned should get their acts in order and ensure the complete implementation of the directions within four weeks. In particular, the High Court directed that immediate step should be taken to dispose of the previously mined coal so that freshly mined coal cannot be mixed up with the previous coal, giving room for the excuse that the freshly mined coal was also a part of the previously mined coal.

The grievance of the petitioners was that the High Court had not heard them before issuing the directions to dismantle the existing coke plants and prohibiting them from operating/establishing new coke plant(s). The petitioners submitted that there is no requirement in law to obtain an environmental impact assessment to establish a coke plant and that the direction to dismantle the existing coke plant would cause irreversible losses and injury to them.

Considering the grievances of the petitioners, the Court held that the proper recourse for them would be to seek their impleadment in the suo motu proceedings pending before the High Court.

The Court requested the High Court to entertain the impleadment application and hear the petitioners on merits including, for modification of the previous interim orders dated 24-­05-­2022 and the one passed subsequent thereto on 21-06-2022.

Resultantly, the Court stayed the direction for dismantling the coke plant(s), however, the Court added that the plants concerned should not be operational during the period of stay.

[JMK Coke Industry Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Meghalaya, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 783, decided on 27-06-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Sr. Adv., Mr. Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, Sr. Adv., Mr. S.P. Mahanta, Sr. Adv., Mr. Amarjeet Singh, AOR and Mr. Mewaker Lyngdoh, Advocates, for the Petitioners.

*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

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