The Meghalaya High Court on Monday said that the state government has not done enough to stop the illegal mining and the transportation of coal despite orders from the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court.

The court, in an order, has said that it will monitor the implementation of its directions and recommendations.

“The Chief Secretary to the State is responsible for implementing such directions and the Chief Secretary remains obliged to ensure that all illegal mining activities are stopped without further ado or delay,” it noted.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Justices W Diengdoh and HS Thangkhiew made the remarks after hearing a public interest litigation on rampant rat-hole mining in the interior and other areas of Khliehriat in East Jaintia Hills district.

Rat-hole mining has been banned in Meghalaya since 2014. It considered to be an unscientific and dangerous technique in which workers enter deep tunnels around three or four feet high to extract coal.

On Monday, the court also pulled up the state government for not using drone photography to monitor the illegal coal mining in remote areas.

“It is alarming that district magistrates, sub-divisional officers and even block level officers are in place along with their counterparts from the police right up to the superintendent of police; but all of them turn a Nelson’s eye to such illegal activities,” the court order said.

The Nelson in the expression refers to Horatio Nelson, the British naval officer who was blind in one eye.

All three judges and the state chief secretary had visited Khliehriat and its nearby areas last week, where they had found evidence of rampant illegal coal mining. They had observed that mounds of fresh coal flanked the highways.

They added: “The coal looked to be obviously freshly mined as it was shiny black. On the road from Khliehriat to Amlarem, about a kilometre or two from the Silchar – Shillong National Highway, there is a vantage point from where one can see the valley below. The lower ground is riddled with rigs and tell-tale signs of mining activities and recently constructed hutments.”

The court observed that it is impossible that the illegal mining activities and the deposit of freshly mined coal “would be conducted with such impunity without the possible connivance of the local administration or even worse”.

The court also asked for an action taken report on the directions and recommendations in four weeks.

In March 2021, the Meghalaya government had said that it had arrested 95 persons and lodged 250 cases over illegal mining and transportation of coal, PTI reported.

“All actions are being taken to ensure that all illegal mining and transportation are acted upon,” Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had said. “The state government will never allow any illegal activity involving mining or transportation.”