If coal belongs to State, amount should be refunded with interest: SC
SHILLONG: Though the Supreme Court in its order on September 21 allowed transportation of extracted coal from October 1 till May 31 next year, the miners will be in trouble if they cannot prove that the extracted coal does not belong to the State.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its order in April this year had said that no extracted coal would be allowed to be transported from Meghalaya after May 15 when the State government would take it over and would be free to sell or auction it.
The Supreme Court after hearing the pending appeal by the Hima Nongstoin Land Owners’ Association against the NGT order to vest the extracted coal with the State government said, “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.”
Earlier in April, an NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar had said, “We specifically decline to extend the date for transportation of the coal already extracted. No coal in any form whatsoever shall be permitted to be transported after May 15, 2016 on which date the entire remaining coal shall vest in the State government and shall be disposed of in accordance with law subject to due protection and care for environment and prevention of pollution resulting there from, either by washing of coal or by transportation.”
However, the September 21 order of the Supreme Court said the findings of NGT that the coal is vested with the State on the grounds that it is illegally extracted “shall be adverted to at the time of the final hearing”.
The Supreme Court also granted the NGT to proceed with regard to other aspects which are pending before it.
The Court also said that the petitioners and respondents who had mined coal are permitted to transport the coal after payment of royalty and other fees fixed by NGT.