Millennium Post

Centre faces tough questions from apex court on Coalgate

The Centre was on Wednesday clueless to a pointed query on how coal blocks belonging to Coal India Ltd (CIL) were allocated to private companies by it, prompting the Supreme Court to adjourn the hearing while asking Attorney General GE Vahanvati to come prepared with official records.

The Centre, which found itself in the line for fire of the apex court, sought time till 24 September to explain the searching questions posed to it by a bench headed by justice RM Lodha.

‘If these coal blocks identified by CIL and Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) are part of the lease hold area of CIL then how can further right be created in favour of other companies,’ the bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said.

The AG contended that since the issue was not raised earlier, he would check on it and inform the court at the next hearing.

The bench said the issue is ‘most vital’ for the case and it cannot proceed in the matter without government’s clarification on it.

‘The government must have a clear position on this aspect,’ the bench, which was to hear the case for the entire day, said while adjourning the case in the pre-lunch session.

It also asked the AG to supply all booklets of CMPDIL for identifying coal blocks and how applications from the companies were received by the Centre.

The apex court was hearing final arguments on PILs seeking cancellation of coal blocks allocation.

They submitted that the allocation process was "non-transparent, unfair and tainted" leading to windfall gains running into lakhs of crores of rupees to a few private firms and wanted the allotments to be cancelled.

The very basis of the allotment of coal blocks without any competitive bidding process was against the doctrine of trusteeship and the Constitutional mandate under Article 14, the petitioners had said.
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