Supreme Court questions the working of the screening committee which purportedly gave preference to certain private firms during 2007-08 without any recommendation from the Central Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Power

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it might cancel 41 coal block allocations made between 1993 and 2009 that were yet to be mined. The government submitted on Wednesday that in the case of 61 other allocations, companies had been asked to remove deficiencies within four to six weeks.

The Supreme Court pulled up the Centre for its “laxity” in de-allocating coal blocks of companies that held them for long without obtaining necessary clearances, and questioned the working of the screening committee which purportedly gave preference to certain private firms during 2007-08 without any recommendation from the Central Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Power.

The court sought to know from Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati the guidelines followed by the screening committee, observing that minutes of the meetings did not show any.

A Bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha and including Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph sought an explanation for the screening committee decision to accept 20 of the 28 recommendations from the competent authorities, reject the rest and, on its own, add applications of 11 other private firms for allocation.

In a related development, the Central Bureau of Investigation sought permission from the court to forward a proposal to the Union Home Ministry for issuance of a Letter Rogatory to Malaysia.

The agency proposes to send the judicial request seeking information on a Malaysian company which was shown as part of the consortium of a company named as accused in one of the coal block cases registered in 2012.

CBI investigations indicated that the Rs.4,600-crore Malaysian firm had only sent an expression of interest to enter into an agreement, but the accused company, worth about Rs.2 lakh, while applying for a coal block in Chhattisgarh, allegedly inflated its worth by including that of the Malaysian company.

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