The Supreme Court on Tuesday posed some searching questions to the Centre on Coalgate, giving the UPA government a tough time to justify the allocations.
A bench headed by justice RM Lodha sought explanation on various issues including why bidding procedure was not followed. It repeatedly asked attorney general GE Vahanvati to explain if the methods adopted for coal block allocation since 1992 were legal. Under what law the screening committee allocated the blocks, the bench said.
Even as Vahanvati assured he would furnish the explanation, the bench wondered why the screening committee was set-up to decide on coal block allocation, earlier done by Central Mine Planning and Design Instituted Limited (CMPDIL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.
“CMPDIL was supposed to identify the coal blocks and not the screening committee. CMPDIL is entirely different from the committee. You must tell us what the reason for departure from that system is,” the bench said.
It asked the AG to place CMPDIL’s booklets and also wanted to know how application was received by the Centre and what was the procedure followed to set-up the screening committee.
Vahanvati claimed the petitioners before the court had created the notion that “coal blocks were allocated like channa-murmura.” To that the court said: “Even for channa-murmura one has to pay the price. They (petitioners) are saying that coal blocks were given free of cost.”
“Policies might be based on prevailing circumstances at a given time. The question is whether the policy is in tune with the law,” the bench said.