Only two bodies have been recovered from the coal mines in East Jaintia Hills. Credit: EastMojo Image

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has sought to know from the family of the miners, trapped in an illegal mine in Meghalaya since December 13 last year, whether they wish to recover the bodies which now might have been ‘decomposed’.

Of the 15 miners who were trapped inside an illegal coal mine on December 13 last year, the body of only two had been recovered. The colliers were stuck in the 370-ft-deep mine in Ksan, East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya when water from the nearby Lytein River gushed into it.

While a hearing a plea on rescuing miners trapped in the rat-hole mine, a bench of Justices S A Bobde and S K Kaul told the petitioner to ask the family members of the trapped miners as to whether they want to get the bodies recovered.

The bench in its order said, “The petitioner is directed to ascertain from the relatives of the deceased if they wish to have the bodies recovered having regard to the fact that they may be already in a completely decomposed condition.”

The Supreme Court also directed hydrologist Sudhir Kumar of the National Institute of Hydrologist, Roorkee, to visit the site of mishap, re-evaluate and submit a report pointing out if merely pumping out of water for de-watering is enough.

“The hydrologist may also suggest what needs to be done in the future for recovering the bodies,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing in first week of April.

The apex court last month said high-powered pumps of Kirloskar company to be airlifted and installed immediately for de-watering the mines.

The court issued show cause notice to the mine owner saying it would consider granting compensation to the family members of the victims as prime facie responsibility and liability of the mishap is of the mine owner.

Earlier this year, SC came down strongly on the Meghalaya government on the issue of rampant illegal mining of coal in the state. The court said the same indicated that the state had failed in dealing with the problem. It also asked the state government to file an affidavit on what it was doing to curb illegal mining.

“If any steps were being taken to stop illegal mining, these incidents would not be happening”, the court observed.

The Centre earlier told the court that it has to “believe in miracles” for the 15 miners to come out alive.

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