The Supreme Court has allowed land owners and coal traders to transport the coal already extracted from the mines in Meghalaya from October 1 to May 31, 2017 on payment of royalty to the state government and other fees fixed by the National Green Tribunal. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan also directed that no other extraction shall take place in the meantime and it would later deal with the NGT’s finding that coal, a natural resource vested in the state, was being illegally extracted.
“It is directed that the petitioners, as well as the respondents, who have mined the coal, are permitted to transport the coal on payment of royalty and other fees as fixed by the National Green Tribunal and other relevant status. The extracted coal can be transported from October 1, 2016 till May 31, 2017,” the bench said.
It said that “the miners shall keep the accounts and if, ultimately, it is held that the coal belongs to the state, they will refund the amount with interest. The quantum of interest shall be determined at the time of final hearing.” The bench allowed the NGT to proceed with regard to other aspects of the matter pending before it without any prejudice.
The apex court’s direction came on an appeal filed by Ka Hima Nongstoi Land Owners, Coal Traders and Producers Association against the green panel’s order banning coal mining in Meghalaya since April 17, 2014. During the hearing, the coal traders told the apex court
that more than 30 lakh metric tonnes of extracted coal was lying in open fields and its transportation would help preserve the environment as well as generate royalty for the state government.
On December 23 last year, the NGT had extended the time for transportation of extracted coal in Meghalaya till May 15 and fixed February 15 as the last date for payment of royalty, after the state government said if the extracted coal was not transported before the rainy reason, it may pollute rivers.
It had also directed the state government to submit mining guidelines to Ministry of Coal within four weeks. The green bench has prohibited mining in the entire state of Meghalaya but allowed transportation of extracted coal kept in the open with due checks and balance.