The Supreme Court on questioned the Centre’s power to allocate coal blocks to companies, saying it has a lot of “legal explanation” to do as the statutory Act empowers only the states to undertake this task.
The apex court said that the Centre cannot undermine the Mines and Minerals Act which has given no power to it to allocate coal block to companies.
A bench of justices RM Lodha and J Chelameswar asked the government to go through other legislations particularly the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, to find out whether it is empowered to allocate the resources.
“There is absolutely no power given to the Centre under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. There is no provision overriding the Act. You require to give a lot of legal explanation,” the bench said.
“The question is does the Centre have power under the Act and does it have the power to undermine the entire statutory mechanism. Can you override the statutory provision of the Act… It is very doubtful, legally perhaps,” it said.
Attorney general GE Vahanvati said he does not want to give ‘off the cuff’ answers to these questions and sought time to go into these issues.
The bench granted six weeks time to the Centre to respond to the issue.
“From your affidavit itself it appears that minerals-and-mining lease has to be executed by the state and not by the Centre. It strikes at the root of all allocations,” the bench said.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by advocate ML Sharma and various members of civil society including former CEC N Gopalaswami, ex-Navy chief L Ramdas and former Cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, seeking a SIT probe into the coal block allocation scam.