SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court setting aside the ban on coal mining by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and recognizing the rights of the tribals.
Conrad said, “The fact that the Supreme Court has come out with the judgment stating that the land and the resources are of the owners is landmark and historic, as it gives back the entire ownership to the people. This is the biggest victory, biggest aspect of the judgment as a whole.”
The Chief Minister further said that Meghalaya has to understand the lesson learnt from the ban on coal mining and its impact on the economy, and it should move on by ensuring mining that is proper, scientific and systematic. It should adhere to rules and
ensure utmost concern to the environmental aspects, he said.
Sangma congratulated the legal team headed by Advocate General Amit Kumar for all the preparations and legal formalities that had been presented before the court challenging the NGT order.
“The legal team worked tirelessly and ensured that all necessary paper works were put in place. There was no move of any sort by the previous Government. We challenged the order of the NGT and the hard work put in by the legal team has yielded results,” the Chief Minister said, and credited the judgment as victory of the people, especially the tribal community. He also had a word of advice to the people to undertake mining by striking a balance between the economy and the ecology.
The Chief Minister said that the Supreme Court has accepted the contention of the State Government that a penalty of Rs 100 crore as imposed by the NGT would cause hardship to the small State of Meghalaya and has, therefore, directed that the amount be paid from the MEPRF (Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund), which was created for collecting fines/penalties from persons who were engaged in illegal mining.
Therefore, the burden of the fine has not been imposed on the State Government but on the illegal miners and transporters of illegally mined coal, who the State Government has continuously been penalizing for violations, he said.
IANS adds: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Meghalaya government to deposit Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as fine imposed on it by the NGT for failing to curb illegal coal mining.
A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph also directed the State to hand over the illegally extracted coal to Coal India Ltd that will auction it and deposit the money earned with the State government. However, the bench allowed continuation of mining on privately and community owned land subject to permission from the authorities concerned.
The NGT had fined the Meghalaya government on January 4 after taking note of a three-member committee’s report which stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and a majority of them were illegal. Earlier the top court banned the transportation of coal in the wake of a coal mine tragedy in the State in December last year.