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Meghalaya HC dismisses PIL against cement major LafargeHolcim

 SHILLONG, Sept 23 - Meghalaya High Court has dismissed a PIL filed by a group of villagers in East Khasi Hills district against cement major LafargeHolcim observing that it was “totally without merit” and “tainted with ill design”.

The PIL, pending since 2007, had alleged that the land bordering Nongtrai and Shella had been illegally acquired by the company for mining of limestone and had not benefitted the villages around the mining area.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice SR Sen, on Wednesday said the PIL was aimed at jeopardising the progress of the village.

The bench said the PIL was “totally without any merit” and “tainted with ill design” as the Shella Action Committee (SAC) could not produce even one land owner who was affected, after the land was transferred, sold or leased out in favour of the company.

The High Court also directed the petitioner, the SAC, to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 within a month, to be donated to flood-affected Kerala.

The SAC had filed the PIL against the then Lafarges Lum Mawshun Minerals Pvt. Ltd, Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd registered in India and Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd, registered in Bangladesh alleging that the companies had denied revenue due to the State besides having flouted mining rules.

They had said in the PIL that it had caused serious loss of revenue and irreparable loss to the indigenous people residing within the Sixth Schedule area.

After considering the matter, the Court said it had arrived at a conclusion that the petitioner had filed the PIL without any substantial basis.

“They may be the residents of village Shella but are stated to have been residing in Shillong and operating from there to the disadvantage of the people of Shella,” the Bench said in its order.

The Court observed that mining operations undertaken by LafargeHolcim and its mining firms have “proved fruitful” for the economic growth and welfare of the people of the area.

It also observed that the company had contributed over Rs 171 crore to the State’s exchequer apart from contributing to the economy and the livelihood of the local people at the project sites by way of creating additional direct and indirect employment opportunities, provision of education, skill-development and various measures.

It said that the project contributes Rs 2.6 crore revenue to Nongtrai Village Durbar, adjacent to Shella village, for the mining area. It is a major source of revenue for people of Nongtrai village.

The cement plant in Chattak is dependent on limestones taken via conveyor belt from Nongtrai village. – PTI

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