SC slams government for double-speak on coal blocks
The government once again was rapped by the Supreme Court Tuesday for not giving details about each coal block it had allotted since 1995, saying its latest affidavit was completely opposite of what was said earlier.
"This affidavit is completely opposite to what you have told the court," the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph told Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati as he submitted that contents of the affidavits were not at variance with what he had told the court.
"This is not the way. You have been filing counter affidavit after counter affidavit," the court told Vahanvati in an expression of disappoint.
The court said the latest affidavit said that 172 blocks were identified by the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Ltd. (CMPDIL) "but we don't have the details on which block went to whom", Justice Lodha said.
"We want to know out of 172 blocks how many went to government companies and how many to private companies," he said.
"The legality of the allocation (of coal blocks) has to be justified by you. It can't be abstracts," Justice Lodha said, as Vahanvati told the court that he "will be able to justify the allocation of each coal block...."
"Explain the position coal block-wise which you have given in your break-up. You give us in a tabulated form so that at one glance we can know (which) coal block was allocated to whom and ... whether any of these were in the leases of (PSU) Coal India Limited," Justice Lodha asked Vahanvati.
At one stage, the court appeared close to granting Vahanvati's plea for adjournment so that he could make all the details available but subsequently it asked the attorney general to continue with his arguments justifying the allocation of coal blocks on the basis of allegations of NGO Common Cause and petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma.
Vahanvati said the government opted to involve the private sector in the exploration of coal as Coal India a huge resource crunch and there was a huge gap in the demand and supply of coal.
He told the court what was sought to be opened was for captive mining for power generation and other areas. "The limited purpose was to privatise coal for captive mining," he told the court.
At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for an association of 19 private companies engaged in coal mining, sought to be impleaded in the matter.
He said the outcome of the hearing would have a bearing on his clients and thus they too should be heard.
This plea was opposed by Common Cause counsel Prashant Bhushan and Sharma who said that what was being question by them was the decision making process itself and the illegalities involved in them and it had nothing to do with the companies.
The court would next hear the case Wednesday.
(Posted on 24-09-2013)