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Gauhati HC defers hearing in coal mining inside Dehing Patkai till February 2021

By PTI Updated: Oct 20, 2020 8:55 pm

Guwahati, Oct. 20 (PTI): The Gauhati High Court on Tuesday said it will wait for the outcome of the enquiry by Assam government before proceeding in the case related to Coal India’s mining inside Dehing Patkai, the largest rainforest of Northeast.

Hearing a batch of three PILs filed by advocates and mountaineer that were linked to a suo motu PIL, a Bench comprising Chief Justice (Acting) N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury deferred the matter till February next year.

“As per information, the Commission of Enquiry constituted by the Assam government will place its report by January 2021. The court will monitor the case thereafter,” said Harish Betala, the advocate of one of the public PILs.

Accordingly, the court directed to list the case in February next year, he added.

On June 4, the Gauhati High Court had issued notices to the Centre, state, Coal India and other stakeholders after filing a suo moto case against coal mining inside Dehing Patkai forest.

The four petitions have made various respondents in the case — Government of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Assam government, the Chief Secretary, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Head of Forest Force, and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).

The National Board of Wildlife, the State Board of Wildlife, the Coal India Ltd, the Chief General Manager of CIL, the Arunachal Pradesh government, Assam DGP, Tinsukia DC, SP and DFO, Geological and Mining Director, and others have also been made parties in the case.

The petitions were filed against the Centre’s preliminary approval to Coal India for mining inside Dehing Patkai forest stating that it violates the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The PILs highlighted that the Dehing Patkai rainforest has a significant cultural and ecological importance in the lives of the people of Assam and it is home to several rare and endangered species of plants, animals, birds, insects and other biodiversity.

It pointed out that a large number of Asiatic elephants also live there, which houses a number of corridors for the mammals in and around the Saleki proposed reserve forest, the area where the illegal mining by Coal India was going on for 16 years since 2003.

Highlighting that several ethnic tribes also reside in the region, the PILs asserted the uncontrolled and rampant mining has not only damaged the natural resources, but at the same time also led to unimaginable air and water pollution, thereby threatening public health at large.

It also stressed that the Stage-I clearance by the Centre for 57.2 hectares out of 98.59 hectares was given on the basis of wrong information provided by CIL and so the company should not have been awarded any approval at all.

The petitions alleged that the PSU major was carrying out activities in another 16 hectares without any approval, leaving only about 25 hectares as an unbroken area.

Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across 111.42 sq km, while the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve with 937 sq km of area is surrounding the sanctuary in its periphery across Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.

By PTI Updated: Oct 20, 2020 8:55:58 pm