The Meghalaya High Court has been recently informed by the Director General of Police (DGP) that the actual owners of the illegal coke plants in the State of Meghalaya are mostly based in Assam.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justice H.S. Thangkhiew, and Justice W. Diengdoh observed, “The Director-General of Police has filed an affidavit in which it has been mentioned, at paragraph 10 that “the actual owners/operators of the illegal coke plants … are mostly based in Assam and have been running the illegal business in Meghalaya and several benami transactions have also come to light …”

The Bench directed the DGP to file a report if the State Police takes necessary steps in accordance with the law and as expeditiously as possible.

Advocate A. Goyal appeared for the petitioner while AAG K. Khan, GA R. Colney, DSGI N. Mozika, and Advocate A. Pradhan appeared for the respondents.

In this case, a PIL was filed before the court regarding the operation of illegal coke oven plants in the State of Meghalaya. Meanwhile, Justice Katakey had filed a 14th interim report, indicating the flourishing business in both coke oven and ferro alloy plants. According to the report, there were 13 coke oven plants in operation in the East Jaintia Hills and 38 further coke oven plants which were not in operation.

In West Jaintia Hills and South West Khasi Hills, there were two and six coke plants, respectively not in operation, and in West Khasi Hills District, there were four coke plants in operation and 61 others not in operation. In addition, there was one ferroalloy plant operation in the West Khasi Hills District.

The High Court in the above context noted, “The petitioner says that the kingpins are well known and are roaming freely in Guwahati with all and sundry knowing of their whereabouts and their operations. … In Ri-Bhoi, though there are no coke oven plants, five out of seven ferro alloy plants are in operation.”

The Court said that it is difficult to accept that such information as furnished in Justice Katakey’s latest report would not be available to the State or that the State would not do anything to check the operation of coke oven and ferro alloy plants that continue without any permission.

“The DGP’s next report should deal specifically with such aspect of the matter by referring to the findings and observations in Justice Katakey’s 14th interim report. … Copies of the latest report filed by Justice Katakey will be made available to any of the parties who seek it. A copy will be made over by the Department to Mr. Khan, appearing for the State, in course of the day”, directed the Court.

The Court further said that the leave is given to the petitioner to file an affidavit to deal with the contents of both the affidavits filed by the DGP and the 14th interim report filed by Justice Katakey. It also said that the petitioner may furnish any additional information pertaining to the persons who are the real owners of the coke oven and ferro alloy plants in Meghalaya that are operating illegally.

“This order will not prevent plants which are operating with due permission to continue operations. However, the State must keep a strict vigil on such plants, particularly the source of coal obtained by such plants”, observed the Court.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter on July 3, 2023.

Cause Title- Shailendra Kumar Sharma v. State of Meghalaya & Ors.

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