The Dhanbad Administration, in a report, has come down heavily on the district police for their high handedness in forcing soft coke kiln factories to remain shut citing ‘Covid-19 guidelines’. In the report prepared by a team headed by an IAS rank officer, it said the temporary ban due to the coronavirus pandemic was over and that no other permission was required to run a factory.
Calling the police action ‘misuse of power and violation of duty for personal gains’, the report said the police went beyond their jurisdiction to register an FIR against a factory owner for ‘spreading pollution’ and kept various other factory owners in trepidation.
“It is requested to the soft coke kiln owners that they should run the factory without any fear and if there is any problem, they should inform the District Administration. There is a violation of duty for personal gains, going beyond jurisdiction (by the police officer) and is accused of keeping the factory owners in trepidation. Prima facie the allegation is true,” the report said on the police excesses.
Soft coke kiln factories partially burn raw coal obtained after mining to convert it to soft coke. It is used as fuel for cooking or to make acetylene gas. Dhanbad being one of the major hubs of coal extraction, many allied companies run in the district.
The investigation started after the operators of soft coke kilns in Nirsa area of Dhanbad submitted an application to the Deputy Commissioner of the district on November 22, stating that the production has stopped since long which has brought hardships to them. The operators requested the Commissioner to give them permission to start the kilns.
The report stated, “On whose orders a group of industries are shut. Has there been any pressure created by a government officer or a private person? Is this the condition under this police station or other area as well? Is it that the industry owners don’t have valid documents? Or is there any court which has stopped this industry from operating?”
The report stated that on August 28, 2020, the Chief Secretary of Jharkhand had said that ‘all economic activities, not specifically prohibited, shall be permitted outside the containment zone”. In case of any violation, action can be taken under Disaster Management Act and under IPC 188(Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant) initiated by a disaster officer or any other officer authorized by them.
“Clearly there was no permission required by these industry owners to operate. Most of the owners said that if the police station officer wouldn’t trouble them, they will start the operation,” the report said.
As per the report, a valid soft coke industry should have a license, consent to establish or consent to operate form certificate issued by Jharkhand Pollution Control Board, GST registration certificate along with a tax invoice of coal bought, transporter’s e-way bill, weighing slip given by weighing bridge, the mining company’s GST invoice and Transport Challan “Form D”.
Majority of the factories that the team investigated had all the documents. The report cited some glaring police excesses. Consider these:
#An FIR was registered without a search warrant against a company owner. The owner was threatened and an FIR was registered stating that the stolen coal was used. The FIR said: “Smoke is billowing from one oven and spreading to the outside settlement which is a violation of lockdown. There is a possibility of the spread of coronavirus.”
#Another owner said that under police pressure, they could not run the factory. The factory was shut down at 3 am in the morning by the police. The DC’s order was shown regarding opening of the factories, but the police did not take it into account. Was threatened with registering an FIR if the factory was not shut down.
#Another factory owner did not start the factory in fear of exploitation by the police.
Citing these examples, the report said: “The Police Station Officer is not an authorized officer. The way he stepped inside the factory to inspect the pollution is beyond his powers and the only aim is to harass the operators of the soft coke kilns to shut down the factory.”
Pertaining to the FIR lodged in one case, the report said: “There is no description of any stolen coal in the FIR. This is a clear misuse of power. Searching a factory without the search warrant, violated the laws and rules. A doubt arises whether this is a well planned attempt to extort money from the factory owners? It needs further investigation.”
The report also cited the statement of the Station House Officer, Subhash Singh, who said about the factory owners: “These are all bad people, spread pollution, don’t put on masks, and don’t follow any rules of corona. They burn stolen coal and did not inform the police station before opening up the factory. That is why an FIR was registered.” The report added that the Officer Subhash Singh said that ‘there is no necessity of a search warrant’ as they put ‘any cognizable offence’ and go inside the factory. However, Singh did not respond to questions whether similar action was taken against hard coke factories, refractory plants and other factories, as per the report.
The report suggested the Deputy Commissioner take action accordingly.