Dispur (Assam) [India], July 19 (ANI): Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has set up an Enquiry Commission under the leadership of former Justice BP Katakey to enquire into the pending cases of illegal coal mining at in and around Saleki Proposed Reserved Forest (PRF) since the year 2003 in Assam.
The order by Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi on Saturday read, "As such, in exercise of powers conferred under section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, the Governor of Assam is pleased to constitute a "One-Man Enquiry Commission" headed by Justice (Retd.) B. P. Katakey, retired Judge of the Hon'ble Gauhati High Court to cause an enquiry..."
"To enquire as to whether since the year 2003 till date, any illegal activities have been undertaken by any organization or individual in and around Saleki Proposed Reserved Forest (PRF) under Digboi Forest Division, including the Tikok Open Cast Project of Coal India Limited (North-Eastern Coalfields)", it read.
The Commission to enquire and identify the organization(s) and individual(s) responsible for undertaking such illegal mining activities, if any, in and around the aforesaid forest area, as per the order.
The Commission "to enquire into the manner of processing of any application, if made, by any organization or individual for grant of mining lease in the aforesaid forest area during the period from 2003 onwards, and also to enquire as to whether grant of any mining lease during the said period was in compliance and in conformity with the provisions of applicable laws i.e. the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957, the Assam Forest Regulation, 1891, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and other applicable Laws and Rules."
"To enquire and assess, the extent of illegal mining activities, if any, in and around the aforesaid forest areas and also the impact of such activities, if any, on the flora and fauna generally found in and around the aforesaid forest area," the order read.
It said, 'To enquire into and fix responsibility upon government officials of any department found involved in the commission of any illegal mining or any other illegal activity in commission or abetment of the aforesaid forest area."
As per the order, the Committee to enquire into and suggest measures for recovery of loss, if any, caused due to unlawful coal mining activity under the jurisdiction of Digboi Forest Division, either in the form of rent, royalty, penalty, land arrears or tax in terms of Section 21 (5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 or under any other law in force during the commission of the offence of illegal mining or commission of any other illegal activity.
The Commission enquire into and suggest measures to be taken for restoration, rehabilitation and reclamation of areas damaged due to illegal coal mining and ancillary activities if any, and approximate amount of costs to be incurred for such purpose.
To enquire into any other prohibited regulated activities inside all forests (RF/PRF) and wildlife sanctuary under Digboi Forest Division and to suggest remedial measures to be taken to check such activities.
The order further read, "The Commission is also hereby vested with the additional powers as mentioned in Section 5 (2) to 5 (5) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. For the purpose of conducting any investigation pertaining to enquiry, the Commission is vested with the powers conferred under Section 5 (A) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952."
As per the order, PN Goswami, Advocate and Standing Counsel, Environment and Forest Department shall represent the Government of Assam before the Commission. The Commission shall submit its report within a period of six months from the date of issuance of this notification. (ANI)