Allocation was only the first step towards obtaining mining lease, says AG

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of seven States in coal block allocation after the Centre maintained that the identification/allotment of coal blocks was only the first step and the subsequent procedure of granting mining leases had to be done by the States concerned.

A three-judge Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph issued notice to Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal and asked senior level officials to file response on four questions as well as to the petitions filed by Common Cause and advocate Manohar Lal Sharma by October 29.The Bench passed this order after hearing Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, counsel Prashant Bhushan, Manohar Lal Sharma and Sanjay Parikh.

The Bench in its order said: “During the course of hearing, the Attorney General had argued that the allocation of coal blocks was only the first step towards obtaining mining lease and that by itself does not confer on the allottee, the right of mining. According to him, the Letter of Intent in no way impinges on the rights of State government under the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. In view of this, it is necessary to hear the views of the seven States on the following questions,” viz., States should file their response on how did they understand the issue of allocation of coal blocks; what was the role of the State government in allocation of coal blocks; what was of the role of the State government in subsequent steps having regard to the provisions of the MMRD Act and the details of agreement entered into by the State Public Sector Undertakings [who were allotted coal blocks] with private parties in coal blocks located States.” The Bench directed the matter to be listed for further hearing on October 29.