ShillongMeghalaya High Court on Friday asked the state government to shut illegal coke plants in West Khasi Hills district and directed the chief secretary to file a compliance report by December 19.

Hearing a PIL on the matter, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said it was “distressing” to note that the state administration “appeared to be complicit in the illegal functioning of coke plants”.

It said the state government has done “precious little” despite the court’s effort over the last several months to implement the orders passed by the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal to prohibit illegal mining of coal and setting up of coke plants.

“Indeed, it now appears that the state government may have helped circumvent orders and actively connive with the operators of the illegal coke plants,” the bench observed.

Stating that a coke plant is not really a cottage industry that it can be surreptitiously operated from a basement or attic, the court said “it takes effort not to notice a fully operational coke plant”.

According to petitioner Monu Kumar, there are more than 60 coke making units in West Khasi Hills district.

But according to a document issued by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, only four units have consent to operate coke plants in the district.

The bench directed that all other coke plants, whatever may be the size and whoever may be directly or indirectly controlling the same, must be shut down.

“The chief secretary will file a compliance report with the Registrar General by December 19, 2022, confirming such position,” it said.

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The court directed all deputy commissioners and SPs of other districts to ensure no coke plants are operating under their jurisdiction sans permission. They have been asked to file individual reports to the CS within a week.

The next hearing on the matter will be held on February 1.

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