The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Meghalaya government to deposit the Rs 100 crore fine imposed on it by the NGT for failing to curb illegal coal mining with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph directed the state administration to hand over the illegally extracted coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) which will auction it and deposit the funds with the state government.
The bench also allowed the mining operation to go on in the state on the privately and community-owned land subject to the permissions from the concerned authorities.
The National Green Tribunal had fined the Meghalaya government on January 4. During the hearing, the state government had admitted that a large number of mines were operating illegally in the northeastern state.
A report of a three-member committee, headed by retired Justice B P Kakoti of Gauhati High Court, had stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and majority of them were operating illegally.
It had also said that not only were there no licences or leases, but also no environmental clearance for operation of the majority of the coal mines.
The NGT had constituted the committee in August 2018 to supervise and look into the issue of environmental restoration plan and other connected matters in Meghalaya.
The committee was constituted during the hearing of the petition which had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.
A total of 15 miners were trapped on December 13 last year in an illegal coal mine at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, about 3.7 km deep inside a forest, when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it.
Only two bodies could be recovered from the mine.
The apex court had earlier refused to allow the transportation of extracted coal lying across Meghalaya despite several requests by the miners.