Noting that right to life is far more significant than economic interest of a state or an individual, the National Green Tribunal has upheld its ban on coal mining in Meghalaya.
"Article 21 of the Constitution gives prominence to the right to life than any other interest, including economic interest of the state or individuals. It will be travesty of justice if in our country, the largest democracy, economic interests are to take precedence over the fundamental right to life and to live in a healthy environment. More so, when the reason for such precedence is that non-permitting of an illegal activity is likely to hurt a section of the society economically," a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The bench said that even the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that "even a state cannot be permitted to take shelter of economic limitations where it comes to protection of life and liberty of citizens."
The green bench had prohibited mining in the entire state but allowed transportation of extracted coal kept in the open with due "checks and balances".
Upholding its ban, the eastern zone bench said: "We continue the interim prohibitory order till further orders and direct that no unscientific, unregulated, illegal mining without seeking environmental clearance or the consent of the concerned Board, particularly the rat-hole mining, would be permitted to be carried on in any part of Meghalaya."