Open violation of Supreme Court orders in India is very common. It’s not sure whether even the authorities concerned remember some recent vital orders. They are talked about, enforced and violations reported for only a period of time. Public memory being short, the violations resume after some time while authorities keep their eyes shut. They have ‘other’ things to do. Let Supreme Court orders be violated unless someone lodges a complaint! That’s the attitude. The latest example of this phenomenon is blatant violation of a ruling of National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Meghalaya. The NGT had in last April ordered a complete ban on ‘rat-hole’ coal mining in the state although it recently allowed transportation of the already extracted mineral. But, shocking revelations have emerged from fresh mining ban orders issued by two deputy commissioners suggesting coal mining is still in vogue.
Rumours about large-scale mining were doing the rounds for quite some time before the two DCs promulgated 144 CrPC prohibiting illegal mining of coal in violation of the NGT order. Significant aspect of the orders is the difference between the tones of the two orders. The first order from West Khasi Hills DC S Kharlyngdoh was issued around two weeks ago followed by another on January 6. East Jaintia Hills DC WR Lyngdoh followed the suit the next day. An important fact to be considered here is that East Jaintia Hills is the main mining hub of the state and rumours about violations emerged from this district and not West Khasi Hills. While the West Khasi Hills DC clearly stated about illegal mining taking place in his earlier order, his counterpart in East Jaintia Hills appears to have just done a job under compulsion. In the ban order, there was no mention about any report of illegal mining taking place in the district. The order issued a day after the second order from West Khasi Hills DC is also significant.
The role of police in the whole episode is also questionable. West Khasi Hills district police chief S Nongtnger reportedly said it was the duty of magistrate to check if illegal mining is going on and police’s job is to ensure security in the exercise. The police superintendent said this despite the state police chief being directly ordered by the NGT to ensure implementation of its order. All these would only lead to a conclusion that political pressure has got the better of bureaucrats, compelling the latter to keep their eyes and mouths shut once again.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 9, 2015)