The Congress could delay the NDA government’s plans to pass two crucial bills on coal auctions and mineral leases this month following the CBI court’s summons to former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the alleged coal block scam.
The party sought more time on Thursday in the select committees reviewing the coal auctions bill and the mines and minerals bill, both of which would replace ordinances. These two executive orders would lapse on April 5 if not passed by both Houses of Parliament this budget session.
“Yes, we have demanded more time be given to the panels to study these bills. Everything can’t be done in a hurry,” said Rajeev Shukla, the Congress member on the coal panel.
The move came after the Supreme Court ruled as illegal the allocation of more than 200 coal blocks between 1993 and 2009. Former Prime Minister Singh had held the coal portfolio when most of these bocks were allotted.
The new bill aims to allow commercial mining of coal and auction of coal blocks. The other one specifies the requirement for obtaining and granting mining leases.
Much like the Congress, the CPM, a staunch opponent of the two ordinances, sought more time too. On Tuesday, the government had agreed to the Opposition’s demand to send the two bills to the Select Committee but with a rider: the panels will submit their reports in seven days.
This arrangement would have given the government elbow room to pass the bills in the first half of the budget session that ends on March 20. The delay was not limited to the coal and mining bills. The committee on the insurance bill, formed last year, took extensions because opposition members were reluctant to speed up the process.