‘Unless the issue is answered, we can’t proceed further,’ it tells AG
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to produce all records and booklets of the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) relating to identification of coal blocks so that it could proceed further in the hearing of the ‘coal block allocation case.’
A three-judge Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph, hearing petitions filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma and Common Cause and others, posted a series of questions to the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati and said “unless the first step, the issue of identification of coal blocks was answered, we can’t proceed further.” With the AG seeking time, the hearing was adjourned in the pre-lunch session, though the case was listed for hearing for the whole day.
Even as the AG was explaining the allocations, Justice Lodha drew his attention to the fact that the coal blocks which he (AG) was referring to, belonged to Coal India Ltd. as it was the lease holder. While this was so, Justice Lodha wondered how these blocks could have been allocated to private companies.
He asked the AG: “If these coal blocks identified by the CIL and the CMPDIL are part of the leasehold areas of the CIL then how can further right be created in favour of other companies. At the most you can only create a sub lease of these blocks.”
The AG said since the issue was not raised earlier, he would verify the records and inform the court at the next hearing.
Justice Lodha made it clear to the AG that “this issue is most vital for the case and it cannot proceed in the matter without the government’s clarification on it. The government must have a clear position on this aspect. You get all the booklets relating to coal block identification.”
On Tuesday the court asked the AG how the applications were received from the private power plant operators by the Central government, either directly or through the State government concerned; the brief given to the screening committee for selection, whether any guidelines were framed or the screening committee was asked to frame its own guidelines and how the applications for allocation of coal blocks were considered.
Justice Lodha also wanted to know from the AG how many private captive power plants were allocated coal blocks between 1993 and 2003; 2003 and 2004; 2004 and 2005 and 2005 and 2009; when they became operational and how many did not begin production at all and whether these blocks were re-allocated. The Bench adjourned the hearing to September 24 to enable the government to produce the relevant records.