GUWAHATI, June 20 - The Supreme Court has directed petitioner Abir Phukan (in IA 50287/2020 in Writ Petition (Civil) 335/2017) �to implead �North Eastern Coal Fields� in the array of parties�. The directive was issued by the court of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy on June 12, 2020. The Court also asked the case to be listed after three weeks from June 12.
The case was filed by Phukan on matters related to the preliminary approval of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to the North East Coal Fields (NEC) of Coal India Ltd for open cast coal mining on 98.59 hectares of Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest land under Digboi Forest Division.
Meanwhile, elephant expert and NBWL Standing Committee member Prof Raman Sukumar has alleged that the NEC had resorted to �misrepresentation of facts� while presenting its case before the NBWL Standing Committee inspection team on October 19, 2019. The NEC had made the presentation before the NBWL inspection team comprising Prof Sukumar, Dr Pasupala Ravi, Scientist �C� of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Dr Ranjana Gupta, PCCF (WL) & CWLW, Assam.
Prof Sukumar made the allegation in his May 29, 2020 letter to MoEFCC Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is also the NBWL Standing Committee chairman. A copy of the letter was obtained by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury through an RTI application.
In the letter, Prof Sukumar said, on October 19, 2019, NEC told them �clearly� that 57.20 hectares of forest land �had already been broken up� and 41.39 ha of forest land �remained unbroken under pristine forest cover.� But, an MoEFCC Shillong Regional Office team found on October 24, 2019 that an additional nine hectares of forest land had been mined and seven hectares were cleared of forest cover, �leaving only about 25 hectares of land in unbroken pristine state.�
�It is obvious that this additional disturbance had already taken place prior to the visit by the NBWL site inspection committee,� said Prof Sukumar. He asserted, �This is a serious breach of trust by the User Agency� I am writing to urge you (Javadekar) to order an inquiry into the matter and take appropriate action��
In their inspection report, the NBWL Standing Committee members suggested that the negative measures recommended by the Expert Committee constituted by Assam Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, on diversion of 98.59 ha in Saleki PRF for Tikok OCP Coal mining project, might be carried out.