Meghalaya High Court: In a Public Interest Litigation (‘PIL’) wherein the petitioner sought Orders to prevent the illegal coal mining and the transportation of the illegally mined coal in the State of Meghalaya (‘State’) from the State of Assam, the Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee, (C.J). and W. Diengdoh, J. reprimanded the State for not taking any steps to prevent the illegal coal mining and said that the kingpin was an instrumentality of the State and was aided and abetted by the State to finance the business of illegal mining of coal.
In the matter at hand, a PIL was filed by the petitioner alleging that the State had manufactured documents for transportation of coal from Assam which was originally meant for export to Bangladesh. The petitioner also pointed towards the fact that certain parties were indulged in the illegal mining and transportation of coal with the tacit approval of the State. The petitioner had also alleged that a kingpin is working as an agent of State and illegal coal is being transported to the State from outside and an excess of about 40,000 Metric Tonnes of coal has left the State. The petitioner claimed that this could not have happened unless there was illegal mining of coal and a network of transportation.
In the previous Orders of the Court, the Court noted that several letters were issued by the Central Authorities to the State pertaining to the illegal coal-mining and illegal transportation of the illegally mined coal.
The Court said that it is alarming that despite the warnings by the Central Authorities, the State has allowed tens of thousands of metric tonnes of coal to be cleared for export through land customs stations within the State even without knowing the source or origin of such coal. The Court also clearly observed the complicity of the State with the mafia and the racket operating in the illegal mining of coal and its illegal transportation. The Court further said that there can be little doubt that the higher-ups in the administration were the beneficiaries of the illegal gains and responsible for the colossal loss of revenue to the State. Therefore, the Court inferred that the kingpin was an instrumentality of the State and was aided and abetted by the State to finance the business of illegal mining of coal in the State.
Referring to the warning given to the State by the Central Authorities to ensure that the illegally mined coal was not exported, the Court said that the State ought to have been alive to the issue and checked every truck carrying coal and thorough verification of every request for permission to export coal to ascertain the origin of the coal. The Court also said that the illegal mining would not have continued unless there was transportation of coal and, without transportation and no demand, illegal mining would have died a natural death.
The Court also referred to the recent mushrooming of coal dumps or depots between Dudhnoi and Paikan on the National Highway in the Goalpara District connecting Guwahati to North Bengal and said that it takes no rocket science or great IQ to infer that illegally mined coal from Meghalaya is dumped around Dudhnoi and then delivered from Dudhnoi to agencies in the State for the ultimate export thereof through land customs stations in Meghalaya. The Central agencies had suspected such activities and warned the State. Thus, the Court said that the State not only did not take any steps, but actively concealed these letters from the Court.
The matter was further listed for hearing on 15-06-2023.
[Champer M. Sangma v. State of Meghalaya, 2023 SCC OnLine Megh 267, Order Dated: 1-06-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Petitioner: Advocate S. Dey, Advocate S. Deb
For the Respondents: Government Advocate A N. Syngkon, Government Advocate A D. Nath, DSGI Dr. N. Mozika, Advocate A. Pradhan, Senior Advocate P. Bora