Coal blocks allocation: Centre tells Supreme Court something went wrong

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New Delhi, January 9: The Centre on Thursday admitted before the Supreme Court that something went wrong with the coal blocks allocation and that it could have been done in a more refined manner.

“We took decision in good faith but something turned out to be wrong,” attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati told a three-judge bench headed by Justice RM Lodha.

“In hindsight, we can say something has gone wrong and some correction is required to be done,” he said, virtually accepting that mistakes were committed by the government in coal blocks allocation.

Vahanvati’s response came after the bench observed that the exercise could have been done in a “far better manner”.

“Everything could have been done in more refined and better manner. I accept my lordships view,” the AG further said.

Vahanvati suggested the cancellation of all post-2005 coal block allocation where license had not yet been granted. Of the 32 allocation made by the Centre since 2005, only two licenses have been issued by the states. The attorney general told the court that he had given his opinion to the government but it was for the Centre to accept it or reject it. He also said the allocation letters were not bankable documents and did not confer a right on allocates to seek license for mining. The Supreme Court then asked if the allocation letter was so innocuous, why was the Centre dithering so long to cancel the allocations that were alleged to be irregular.

At the outset of the day’s hearing, the bench asked the AG about the Centre’s stand on de-allocation of certain coal blocks.

In response, Vahanvati submitted the government would next week make its stand clear on the issue.

The AG had in September 2013 submitted that coal blocks allocation was merely a letter of intent and does not confer any right to the companies over the natural resource which is decided by the state government.

He had contended that decision of coal blocks allocation to companies is only the first stage and firms get rights over coal only when they start mining for which they have to take various clearances.

The mining states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, however, had earlier told the apex court that coal blocks allocation was “entirely controlled and regulated” by the Centre and they only played a minimal role in the whole exercise.

The court is scrutinising coal blocks allocation since 1993 on three PILs seeking cancellation of blocks on the ground that rules were flouted in giving away the natural resource and that certain companies were favoured in the process.

 

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