Meghalaya HC asks govt to shut illegal coke plants
Meghalaya High Court

Shillong: The Meghalaya High Court has added a district council to a PIL as a respondent after the Airport Authority of India (AAI) informed it that the autonomous body imposes arbitrary license fees and certain officials make extortionist demands.

The AAI has also submitted that it had lodged complaints with the state government in this regard but nothing happened.

It has also come to light that the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, under whose jurisdiction the airport at Umroi operates, imposes arbitrary license fees and certain officials make extortionist demands, the court said.

Since the authority of the KHADC to seek license fees and the extent thereof have been called into question, the KHADC is added as a respondent. Advocate for the State will furnish the particulars pertaining to the added respondent, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said in an order on Monday.

The bench, also comprising Justice W Diengdoh, was hearing a PIL seeking development of the airport at Umroi, located a few kilometres away from the state capital Shillong.

The AAI has also submitted that there is considerable difficulty in even supplies being sought for a small airport at Umroi since bidders are required to obtain a trade license to be eligible even to bid.

The state government has informed the court that though an Expression of Interest from the general public was sought for land to expand the airport and the time for receiving responses was extended, only a few responses have been received till July 6.

The state sought more time to process them.

The AAI, however, has submitted that the exercise of inviting offers may not yield any fruitful result since the state has to identify suitable areas in consultation with the AAI before negotiating with the land owners and taking steps for outright purchase or acquisition.

Appearing for AAI, Assistant Solicitor General N Mozika said that it is essential to obtain land to ensure that there is a full-fledged airport to service the state and which will cut the travelling time between Assam capital Guwahati and Shillong.

He asserted that the development of an airport will lead to several ancillary businesses coming up boosting the state’s economy.

The bench said it is for the state government to take a call.

The matter will be listed on August 1 when the state authorities were asked to indicate their considered opinion on whether or not it needs a bigger airport.

“If the administration does not want development or is not proactive in such regard which may create job opportunities for the residents in the State upon ensuring that the ecological balance and the environment are not disturbed to any great extent, the Court cannot have an agenda of its own to force development down the administration’s throat, the order read.

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