Meghalaya rathole mine tragedy: SC questions need to go on with rescue work but agrees to one ‘last-ditch effort’

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A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer said there would be only “skeletons” left now; miners were first known to be trapped from December 13, 2018.

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the need to go on with the rescue operations for trapped miners in a rathole mine in Meghalaya.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer said there would be only “skeletons” left now. The miners were first known to be trapped from December 13, 2018.

“What will be left of them now? It has been two months,” Justice Nazeer said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, agreed that “nothing could be done.”

But Senior advocate Anand Grover, for PIL petitioner-advocate Aditya N. Prasad, persisted. Mr. Grover highlighted the plight of the families of the miners and their need for closure. He appealed to the “judicial conscience” of the court to go on with the rescue operations at least for sometime more.

The Supreme Court finally agreed with Mr. Grover and ordered the government to go for one “last-ditch effort” at the rescue.

The court reiterated its order to airlift 100 hp Kirloskar pumps to dry the flooded mine.

Show-cause notice to owner of mine

The court further issued a show-cause notice to the owner of the mine, saying it would consider granting compensation to the family members of the victim as prime facie responsibility and liability of the accident was with the owner. Rathole mines are illegal.

In January, Mr. Mehta informed the court that the mine was 25-storey deep and a maze with no blueprints available to guide specialist Navy divers in search of miners. He said the divers were working blind.

The mine is believed to be 10 feet lower than the river with no air-pockets. The water is muddy.

On January 28, the government reported to the court about the extraction of a body from the mine. The body was spotted 280 feet deep inside the mine and was extracted on January 24.

“Search for balance survivors/mortal remains is in progress,” the government report read then.

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