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State govt users alone must pay extra coal levy, not JV partner: SC

While rejecting the plea of Karnataka government, the apex court ruled that those who have used the coal only will have to bear the burden and not those who have produced it for them.

Karnataka government, in a separate petition, wanted to shift of burden of paying the additional levy to their joint venture partner but it was rejected by court categorically. In a separate affidavit submitted by the state government, it had appreciated the role of joint venture partner and mentioned that they have saved huge amounts of money.

SC on Monday dismissed a batch of pleas filed by various firms including Tata Steel seeking impleadment and re-look of its earlier verdict by which allocations of 214 out of 218 coal blocks were quashed. “We are not going into it. Whether your case was considered by the screening committee or not is not an issue. We have already held that the entire process was flawed and illegal,” said a three judge-bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur.

“Since the writ petitions have already been disposed of, these impleadment applications cannot be allowed. We had held that all the allocations were illegal and hence, consequences will follow,” the bench, also comprising justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, said.

The court, on September 24, had quashed allocation of 214 out of 218 coal blocks alloted to various companies since 1993 terming it as “fatally flawed” and allowed the Centre to take over operation of 42 such blocks which are functional. During the hearing on Monday, the counsel for some of the affected firms referred to the CAG findings and the court’s judgement and said that they only dealt with overground mining and consequential illegal gains made by the companies concerned and did not relate to the underground mines.

“Our’s is an underground mining site. The CAG report did not deal with it and even the court, in its judgement, did not deal with it as no details with regard to such mining was produced,” one of the
lawyers said.

Firms like Tata Steel, Rathi Steel and Prakash Industries and some joint venture companies, having state-owned firms as partners, had moved the court seeking impleadment as parties. The court, however, dismissed their pleas. The court only agreed to hear on December 16 the two pleas challenging the Central government’s recent Ordinance on coal block allocations.

Later, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, raised the issue of former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha meeting several persons, being probed for their alleged roles in coal scam. “Now CBI Director (Ranjit Sinha) is gone. Where is the question of his interfering,” the bench said.

The first prayer that he be asked to not to interfere with the probe becomes “infructous”, he said, adding, “But the second prayer for constitution a SIT is still there. Now he has retired, but he did try to scuttle the probe.” Senior advocate Amrendra Sharan, appearing for CBI, opposed the contention saying that the court-appointed special public prosecutor has been perusing all the charge sheets and closure reports.

Meanwhile, the court returned the income tax appraisal reports, including that of controversial meat exporter Moin Akhtar Qureshi, to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.”We have perused (the reports) and closed the matter,” the bench said adding that it does not want to “elaborate”.

Earlier, Centre had said that the income tax appraisal report on Qureshi disclosed “astonishing” state of affairs between him and previous CBI Director (A P Singh) who used to have conversation with the businessman on a daily basis in code on issues including helping accused in some cases. Rohatgi, however, had said that there was no conversation between Qureshi and Ranjit Sinha and there may be some “innuendo referring to” him but there was “no direct conversation”.

The court on Monday rapped CBI for its “slow” investigation in some of the coal block allocation cases and asked it and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to submit reports on February 9, next year on the progress made by them in investigations till February 5. “You (CBI) are very slow,” the bench said and asked the probe agency to expedite the investigation.

On CBI’s contention that Gujarat government has so far not provided some requisite information, the bench asked the Chief Secretary of the state to provide them without any further delay. The court also asked the counsel for CBI to provide information to the ED at the earliest so that the probe into the money laundering aspect of the coal scam cases can be expedited. “On perusal of report, we find that the ED has not been provided information, sought on June 2, by the CBI. We expect CBI to render effective assistance,” it said. It also asked the ED to give specific details in its reports which have been filed in the court and ordered it to “diligently” follow up its summons issued to accused.
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