SHILLONG, March 15: The Supreme Court has asked the person who had petitioned against calling off of rescue operations to ascertain from the families of the “deceased” (miners) trapped in an illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills District, if they wish to have their bodies recovered as they may have already decomposed.
A bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked petitioner Aditya N Prasad to join a team of hydrologist and survey officer visiting the site.
“The petitioner is directed to ascertain from the relatives of the deceased if they wish to have the bodies recovered having regard to the fact that they may be already in a completely decomposed condition,” directed the bench.
Meanwhile, during the hearing on March 12, the bench was informed about the inappropriate steps being taken by the governments in the rescue operations and how the Centre delayed picking up sufficient number of 100 hp pumps from Maharashtra-based company Kirloskar Brothers Ltd., as prescribed in the report of the hydrologist who had earlier visited the site.
The governments, both Centre and the State, however, negated the claim of any shortcoming in the recovery operation while reiterating that the water from the river is continuing to flood the mines.
At this, the bench ordered, “Having regard to the controversy at this stage, we consider it appropriate to direct Dr. Sudhir Kumar, Hydrologist, National Institute of Hydrologist, Roorke, to “visit the site in question and after reappraisal, submit a report pointing out whether the pumping that is being done specifically for dewatering is adequate. The Hydrologist may also suggest what needs to be done in the future for recovering the bodies”.
The Meghalaya government submitted that it would depute an officer for the survey by the hydrologist.
The bench ordered that the petitioner may accompany the team, which shall be provided with transportation by air.
Prasad had moved the court in December after reading reports about the rescue operation being called off due to lack of adequate equipment besides other reasons.
On several dates, he, through senior advocate Anand Grover appearing pro-bono, informed the bench about how the rescue operation was botched up from the start with the governments not even attempting to airlift adequate pumps available with Kirloskar Brothers Ltd.
On February 8, the Centre gave an undertaking in the court that it would airlift the pumps to the site but the same was not acted upon. On February 25, the bench asked the Centre to honour its undertaking after Grover made a tearful appeal to the court to think about the bereaved families.