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Meghalaya Rat-Hole Miners: Moved By Tearful Appeal, SC Asks Centre To Airlift Pumps As Assured [Read Order]

akanksha jain
25 Feb 2019 5:36 PM GMT
Meghalaya Rat-Hole Miners: Moved By Tearful Appeal, SC Asks Centre To Airlift Pumps As Assured [Read Order]
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After a tearful appeal and with the passing of almost two and a half months since 15 labourers were trapped in a flooded illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills District, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to honour its undertaking given in court to the effect that it will airlift 100-horsepower (hp) capacity pumps to the nearest point of the site and install them...

After a tearful appeal and with the passing of almost two and a half months since 15 labourers were trapped in a flooded illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills District, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to honour its undertaking given in court to the effect that it will airlift 100-horsepower (hp) capacity pumps to the nearest point of the site and install them "at the earliest" with the help of the Army authorities.

A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri asked the Centre to comply with its February 8 undertaking wherein Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said the Centre would airlift the pumps to the site to dewater the mines.

At first, the bench was not inclined to pass this order as it said only skeletal remains would be left now but then, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for petitioner Aditya N Prasad, appealed to the bench to make a last-ditch attempt, while also stating that Justice Sikri has delivered great judgments and "this case should not go down in history as a case where we could have done something and we didn't".

He also appealed to the bench to consider the plight of a mother whose two sons are among the 15 men trapped in the mine.

It is to be noted that the suggestion to airlift 20 pumps of 100 hp was made to the Centre by the petitioner in terms of the report of the National Institute of Hydrology and the Geological Survey of India.

Grover had told the bench earlier that the problem of de-watering of the mine persists and Maharashtra-based company Kirloskar Brothers Ltd was ready to supply a sufficient number of 100 hp pumps as prescribed in the report of the hydrologist. The report was submitted nearly two weeks ago by the National Institute of Hydrology.

With 20 days over and the Centre not acting on its words, the petitioner moved an urgent application before the court seeking compliance of the February 8 order.

On Monday, the court was of the view that the matter be put to rest since so much time has already passed and nobody would be alive and the bodies might have already decomposed.

At this, appearing pro-bono, Grover said it was unfortunate that the undertaking given by the government was not complied with when even Kirloskar Brothers Ltd had written to the administration concerned asking how to transport the pumps in compliance of the February 8 order.

The bench was also informed that the company was offering the pumps for free and the same have been waiting to be airlifted to the site.

Grover also stressed that the status report filed by Meghalaya had stated about miners recommending that dewatering be carried out by 40 pumps of 40 hp while the report of the National Institute of Hydrology also stated that dewatering can be effectively done with 20 pumps of 100 hp.

Not inclined to pass any order in this petition, the court said it would look into the issue of laying down standard operating procedures for such cases in the main mining matter.

Grover then said he was appealing to the courts' conscience to make this last-ditch effort to bring the people out, to believe in these scientific reports and de-water the mines so that the people can be rescued.

He also appealed to the bench that among the 15 men trapped in the rat-hole mine, two were brothers and it must consider the agony of their mother.

The court then recorded that the undertaking given by the government on February 8 was not complied with and directed its compliance.

The court also directed the state of Meghalaya to.serve the notice issued by it to the mine owner who is in police custody and said that it will consider some adhoc compensation to be paid to the families of the victims.

The matter is now listed for March 12. 

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