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Concern over ban on coal mining

- NGT ban termed unconstitutional & illegal

Shillong, May 28: Traditional heads in Meghalaya have expressed serious concern over the “constitutional validity” of the interim ban on coal mining in the state by the National Green Tribunal. The ban has also been termed as “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.

Recently, the Grand Council of Chiefs of Meghalaya (comprising the Ka Dorbar Ki Khlieh Nongsynshar Ka Ri Hynniewtrep, Federation of Khasi States, Ka Dorbar Ki Dolloi, Ki Sirdarship, and Council of Nokmas) held a meeting wherein the issue relating to the interim ban was deliberated.

Utilising the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement, which was accepted by the Centre August 17, 1948, the traditional heads have pointed out that the Federation of Khasi States did not sign the “Instrument of Merger”.

“They collectively and individually signed only a conditional Instrument of Accession with an Annexed Agreement on December 15, 1947, and which was accepted by the Centre on August 17, 1948,” spokesperson for the Federation of Khasi States, John F. Kharshiing stated in a letter to chief minister Mukul Sangma.

Stating that during the attainment of Independence the treaty obligations were overlooked, Kharshiing noted that constitutionally it was the official treaty that connected the Khasi states with the dominion of India.

“There exists a constitutional anomaly in the Constitution, and because of this anomaly, which is yet to be rectified, the acts, rules and regulations passed by Parliament, are, in most cases, in conflict with the traditional customary rights of the people,” Kharshiing noted.

He also said the recent ban by the NGT was “unconstitutional and illegal” as it violated the treaty rights agreed upon between the Centre and the Federation of Khasi States.

Further, it was pointed out that the people of the state had opposed the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act, 1973 as it spoke on acquisition of the rights of owners of coal mines.

The act bars any person, except the Centre and its authorised lessees, to mine coal and other major minerals in India.

“Our former MP late Prof. G.G. Swell had raised this matter with the central authorities and the response then was that the state government could move the Centre for such exemptions, which has not been done till date,” Kharshiing said.

Therefore, Kharshiing impressed upon the chief minister about the need for the state government to move a resolution, under paragraph 12 A(b) of the Sixth Schedule, in the Assembly for suitably amending and exempting many acts and rules applicable to mining in India vis-a-vis Meghalaya.

Through the same resolution, he said the state government could move for incorporating the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement within the Constitution through a special article to have permanent solutions to the frequent conflicts between customary laws with laws passed by Parliament.