The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Meghalaya government to deposit the Rs 100-crore penalty imposed by the National Green Tribunal for failing to check illegal coal mining in the state, PTI reported. The green tribunal had imposed the fine on the Meghalaya government in January, when operations to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills were under way.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph asked the state government to hand over the illegally extracted coal to Coal India Limited, which will auction it and deposit the funds with the state government. The court allowed mining to go on in the state on privately and community-owned land subject to the permissions from authorities.

The NGT had imposed the fine after a high-level committee submitted a report, which said that a majority of mines in the state were operating without a lease or a licence. The NGT had banned rat-hole coal mining in 2014.

The state government had earlier admitted that a large number of mines were operating illegally.

Fifteen miners had got stuck in an illegal mine on December 13 in East Jaintia Hills district. Only two bodies were recovered.