The NGT committee headed by retired Justice BD Agarwal has directed the state government to take actions to arrest the offence of transportation of illegally mined coal in the state.
The order was passed on December 10, last year following a petition filed by one Pawan Sharma.
The NGT committee has recorded that nearly 40 lakh tonnes of illegally procured coal was used by power and cement plants during 2014 to 2018 causing a whooping loss of government revenue to the tune of nearly 614 crores.
It said despite regular reporting of illegal transportation of coal in the media and public resentment, the menace of illegal coal transportation is unabated.
The committee in its order has directed the need to file charge-sheets in all the cases registered u/s 21 of the MMDR Act within a period of 2 months from the date of registration of the case citing “This will deter the coal smugglers from violating the ban order of the NGT.”
“The chief secretary and DGP, Meghalaya are also directed to issue necessary instructions to the investigating officers and other concerned officers to sell the seized coal within a period of 3 months. This step will also discourage the owners of coal from transporting it illegally without payment of royalty and taxes,” it said.
In case, there is any delay in giving orders for auction of the seized coals and equipment by the courts/magistrates the government should approach the Meghalaya High Court for appropriate directions to the concerned magistrates.
Stating that till now the seized coals are lying in open causing environment hazardous, the order said hence, disposal of seized coal at the earliest is also imperative on this count.
The NGT committee further directed the chief secretary and DGP to issue necessary instructions to the investigating officers and other concerned officers to confiscate and sell the seized trucks, dumpers, conveyances and equipment in accordance with law within a period of three months.
“This step will also discourage the owners of coal and trucks from transporting it illegally without payment of royalty and taxes,” it said.
It also said as per resolutions taken by the committee in various meetings and recommendations to the NGT (subsequently approved by the NGT by its order dated January 17, 2020), the government of Meghalaya is directed to install centralized server, uploading of transport permits/challans and tracking of coal laden trucks through GPS and RFID tags, as stipulated in appendix XII to the EIA notification, 2016 and also introduce high security mineral challans to prevent and detect multiple use of transport challans within a period of four weeks.
It is further ordered that no new challan for coal transportation shall be issued by the Director of Mineral Resources, Meghalaya till the aforesaid system is put in place.
Meanwhile, the NGT committee also directed to take legal action against the officials who fail to detect and detain the trucks and other conveyances from their respective check points besides increasing the police patrolling in the coal bearing areas to prevent illegal coal mining, if any.
It also directed the chief secretary and DGP to submit a compliance report of the directions within three months.