Gauhati High Court has taken up a suo moto case ( a case taken without formal prompting from the parties) against the move to start coal mining in the Dehing Patkai Forests of Assam. The Court issued notices to the center, Assam government, Coal India Limited (CIL), National Board of Wild Life (NBWL), mines and mineral department of Assam, state home department, Assam Police, and other associates on Thursday concerning this matter.
In its last meeting on April 17th, the Standing Committee of the NBWL recommended approval of the CILs proposal for mining in a section of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve if it fulfills the 28 conditions. The approval for the mining had led to widespread agitations in Assam.
Dehing Patkai, which covers 111.19 square kilometers of rainforest, is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of the state. This completely virgin rainforest is home to 47 mammals species, 47 reptile species, and 310 butterfly species(up to date). It is covered by the towering Mekai and Holling trees. It is the largest lowland tropical forest in the nation. The mining in the forests will drastically affect the diverse flora and fauna.
The bench comprised of Chief Justice Ajay Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia notified the High Court that the suo moto was taken by hearing the PILs ( Public Interest Litigation) filed by Mrinmoy Khataniar, a lawyer and mountaineer Amar Jyoti Deka. The Court fixed July 20th as the next hearing date.
A petitioner, advocate Santanu Borthakur, says that until then, three PILs have challenged the recent approval of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL). He added that the approval had allowed opencast coal and underground coal mining in a section of the Dehing Patkai forest.
Advocate Borthakur said that when all the PILs insisted a ban on coal mining, his petition asked the Court to declare the the entire rainforest as a heritage site. He raised this point on the basis of the provision of Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. Advocate Rakhee S Chowdhury reports to the Press Trust of India( PTI) that the CIL was mining illegally in 16 acres and the informed 57.2 acres.
Vikram Rajkhowa, who filed the PIL with advocate Santanu Borthakur says that the Dehing Patkai was declared a heritage site under the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 due to their petition.
The petitions were filed against centre’s approval to Coal India for mining inside the forests. The Court also stated that CIL violated the Right to Life under Article 21 of the constitution. Parimal Suklabaidya, the State forest minister, visited the site and ensured that the oppositions would not go in vain.