SC allows plea to drop op to retrieve bodies of miners

SC allows plea to drop op to retrieve bodies of miners

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indian Naval personnel carry an unidentified body of a trapped miner during a joint operation in Ksan area of East Jaintia Hills, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Seven months after 15 people were trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya, the Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state government's plea seeking its permission to call off the ongoing operation to retrieve the bodies.

The illegal mine is located at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district, about 3.7 km deep inside a forest and can be accessed after crossing three streams.

It was flooded in December last year trapping 15 miners when water from the nearby river gushed into it.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai passed the order while hearing a petition which had sought urgent steps for rescuing the miners trapped in the rat-hole mine since December 13 last year.

Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually three-four feet deep, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed "rat holes" as each just about fits one person.

During the hearing on Friday, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that the state has filed an application seeking permission to call off the operation.

"We are not opposing it (application filed by state)," Grover told the court, adding, "Now we are no longer on the issue of (rescue) operation".

The petitioner told the court that there should be a standard operating procedure (SoP) which could be followed in case of such eventuality as had happened in Meghalaya.

The bench said that it would hear the issue relating to the SoP after four weeks.

The apex court had in March this year directed the petitioner 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."

The court was earlier told that remotely operated underwater vehicles (RoVs) had detected three bodies in the mine.

Earlier, the Centre had told the court that it has to "believe in miracles" for the 15 miners to come out alive.