The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Thursday a plea seeking urgent steps to rescue 15 miners who have been trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13.
The matter was mentioned Wednesday for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul which agreed to hear the matter on Thursday.
The plea filed by advocate Aditya N Prasad also sought a direction to the centre and other authorities concerned to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in "mines and other similar conditions".
The plea, filed through advocate Astha Sharma, sought directions to the centre and the state to utilise the services of the technical wing of the Indian Armed Forces -- the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force -- in the operation to rescue the 15 miners.
The rat-hole mine, atop a hillock fully covered with trees in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, was flooded when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it, trapping the miners.
Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually three-four feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed "rat holes" as each just about fits one person.
The petitioner sought directions to the centre and the state government to request for high capacity self-priming pumps available in the country including that of Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL) which were offered to the Royal Thai government in June-July 2018.
Pune-based KBL had given technical support in the operations to rescue a football team trapped inside a cave system in Thailand.
KBL had then offered to provide four specialised high capacity Autoprime de-watering pumps, which were kept ready at Kirloskarvadi plant in Maharashtra to be airlifted to Thailand.
The plea has also sought directions to the concerned authorities for air lifting the pumps to the rescue site.
It also sought directions to the Coal India Limited for providing necessary technical know-how, equipment and guidance immediately at the rescue site.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had contradicted the media reports which quoted it as saying that the trapped minors were suspected to be dead on the basis of a foul odour that the force's divers had encountered when they went inside the mine.
It had said the foul smell could be due to the stagnant water in the mine as pumping had been halted for more than 48 hours.
A survivor of the accident had said on Saturday that there was no way the trapped miners would come out alive.
Family members of at least seven trapped miners had already given up hope to rescue them alive and requested the government to retrieve the bodies for last rites.