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Dehing-Patkai: Gauhati HC awaits report of Commission, fixes Oct 20 date for further monitoring

A one-man inquiry commission to probe the allegations of large-scale illegal coal mining in the Dehing Patkai reserve forests has been constituted

Gauhati High Court

File Image: The Gauhati High Court

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 Sep 2020 8:56 AM GMT

Guwahati: In regards to the Dehing Patkai case, the Gauhati High Court today passed orders observing that it would be in a better footing to adjudicate the matter once it gets the report from the Commission of Inquiry instituted by the Government.

The High Court has asked the parties including the Coal India and the govt to give their views before the Commission and the matter has been fixed on 20th October for further monitoring.

"4 PILs, including one by the High Court itself, have been filed on the issue of mining in the Dehing-Patkai region. At the same time, an inquiry commission has also been instituted by the government of India. Thus, all parties have been urged to give their views in front of the government-appointed commission and the matter will be monitored once again in the month of October," advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar, who jointly filed a PIL with mountaineer Amar Jyoti Deka told The Sentinel Digital.

In July of this year, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal ordered a judicial inquiry into the illegal coal mining at the Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.

Retired Justice Brajendra Prasad Kataki of the Gauhati High Court will look into the coal mining in the sanctuary since 2003, according to a release issued by the Chief Minister's Office.

The Chief Minister's announcement came amid widespread protests against purportedly 'illegal' coal mining at Saleki near the sanctuary by Coal India Limited's (CIL) arm North Eastern Coalfields.

The North Eastern Coalfields has accepted that mining was going on since 2003 in the area and claimed it had applied for renewal of its lease in 2003 from the Government but to no avail.

The Centre gave the Stage-I clearance to the PSU major for 57.20 hectares in December 2019 with 28 conditions, including fines and action against responsible officers violating the Forest Conservation Act.

For carrying out illegal mining activity inside the forest, or 16 years since 2003, Assam's forest department in May slapped a penalty of Rs 43.24 crore on CIL.

In its last meeting in April, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended the CIL''s proposal for legalizing the illegal mining for approval provided it fulfills the 28 conditions.

After the protests against the issue gained momentum, along with other PILs, the Gauhati High Court had issued notices to the centre, state, CIL and other stakeholders on June 4 after filing a suo motu case over it.

The Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across 111.19 sq km but conservationists are now demanding that area expansion is a must with the 500 square kilometre area surrounding the sanctuary should be included within the proposed national park.

Also Watch: Get Set Global: Assam for Rest of India: Views from Indians in the UK

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