Millennium Post

Supreme Court dismisses dual pleas against Coal Ordinance

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also rejected separate pleas of three private firms including Jindal Steel Ltd and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) that the time to pay penalty for alleged illegal mining be extended beyond present deadline of December 31. The firms had also prayed that they be allowed to participate in the auction process without paying the penalty by December end.

They also alleged that one of the clauses of the recent Ordinance bars a firm from taking part in the auction process if it does not pay the penalty within the stipulated time.

"The idea was to collect the penalty and not to create a situation where we cannot pay," senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for one of the firms, said, adding that the time to pay be extended and firms be allowed to take part in the auction process.

"I am strongly opposing this. They have come at the last moment. This is misconceived," Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said.

"We are not inclined to grant the relief," the bench, also comprising justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, said while rejecting the pleas of the three firms.  At the outset, senior advocates P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of Mumbai-based BLA Industries Pvt Ltd and sought exclusion of the firm from the ambit of the Supreme Court's September 24 judgement.

The court 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. "I have nothing to do with the screening committee. I never applied to the Centre. This is not the case where the Centre or the screening committee procedure was followed," Chidambaram said.

"The judgement of this court does not apply on us," Sibal said and toed the submission of Chidambaram that the coal blocks were alloted to the company on the recommendation of the state government which had applied its independent mind.

Govt to auction  65 mines to pvt cos in first lot, allot 36 to PSUs

Gearing up for fresh allocation of coal blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court, the government on Thursday came out with a bidding mechanism for auction of 65 mines to private players while 36 other blocks will be directly allotted to state-owned companies. While the number of coal mines to be auctioned or allotted in the first tranche has been increased to 101 from 92, there would also be different criteria for auction to regulated sector, including power, and unregulated sectors.

Of the 101 blocks to be alloted and auctioned in the first lot, 63 mines would be given to the power sector, while the rest would be for sectors like steel and cement. As per the list of coal mines earmarked for auction, 28 mines will be auctioned to the power sector. The auction for regulated category will be reverse bidding, the government said in draft approach paper on which comments stakeholders have invited till December 22. A ceiling price will be fixed for coal mines to be auctioned to the power companies having power purchase agreements based on the prevailing Coal India notified price.

“A ceiling price of the prevailing CIL notified price for each coal mine will be fixed and the bidder will be mandated to quote lower than this ceiling price,” the approach paper said.
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