January 9: It’s been nearly two months since 15 people have been trapped in the coal mine in Meghalaya. The Supreme Court today held the owner of the mine, responsible for the mishap caused and directed that he should be made a party in the pending petition seeking urgent steps for rescuing the miners trapped in the rat-hole mine since December 13, 2018.
The bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Abdul Nazeer also made directions to the government and Coal India Ltd to provide with the details of other illegal mines operating in the area.
The owner of the mine has been given time till February 22, being the date of the next hearing to file its reply in the court.
The bench stated that, “The mishappening has taken place because of illegal mining in the concerned mines for which, obviously, the mine owner is responsible. It is, therefore, directed that notice be issued to the mine owner also, namely, Jrin Chullet @ Krip Chullet, R/O Village Narwan of District Khliehriat, East Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya.”
The Counsel, Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing petitioner Aditya N Prasad, said that the problem of dewatering the mines still continues. He also said that Kirloskar company has enough Horsepower capacity pumps and is even ready to supply the same.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Centre said that with the help of the Army authorities these pumps would be installed as soon as possible.
The Counsel, Advocate Karan Singh Bhati, appearing for Coal India Ltd. said he wants to file the status report on behalf of the company.
On January 28, in the hope to save trapped miners, the Supreme Court urged the Centre and the government to continue with the rescue operation of trapped miners in the 370-foot-deep flooded coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13 last year.
Earlier, Navy spotted two dead bodies during the rescue operation.
Brief background of the matter: The Apex Court is hearing a PIL filed by Aditya N. Prasad who has sought urgent steps to rescue 15 miners trapped in the illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district.
Last Month, the state government had told the top court that on January 16, the ROV of Indian Navy had detected a body at a depth of 210 feet in the flooded mine and efforts were being made to retrieve it but could not be completed as the body parts started disintegrating. On January 11, the Centre had told the court that it has to "believe in miracles" for the 15 miners to come out alive.
Also, in Course of delay in the rescue work, the top court had pointed out the Centre and had sought a detailed report from it.
The Centre in its response filed its status report and said that crores of litres of water has been pumped out from the mine and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) of the Indian Navy were already working in the rescue operation.
"Underground ROVs being operated in adjacent mines, systematically searching and sanitizing them one by one. So far, two adjacent mines have been searched and declared clear," the report said.
It said Indian Air Force aircraft were also deployed for the rescue operation.
The status report said that the Meghalaya government is undertaking search and rescue operations and the Centre is supplementing the efforts by providing all necessary logistic support.
The court had also expressed dissatisfaction over the progress in the rescue operation, and asked the centre to look into it considering its “urgency” and said it was “a question of life and death” for those trapped.