Govt. leaves it to SC to decide fate of coal blocks

The Government left it to the Supreme Court to do what it thought best about the 218 illegal coal block allocations, including 40 operational blocks, and said it was “not insisting on any particular course of action”.

The Ministry of Coal filed an affidavit on Monday, signalling the Supreme Court to be untrammelled by commercial concerns and cancel all 218 coal block allocations found illegal, if it serves the purpose of law.

It clarified that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s submission during the September 1 court hearing to spare 40 operational coal blocks and six others, which are ready to be functional, was just a passing on of “information”.

The government urged the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the 218 coal blocks “quickly” as the country was going through a severe power crisis.

It seconded the AG’s submission on September 1 that a quick decision by the court would help the government re-allocate the coal blocks in a transparent manner and start production.

In a judgment on August 25, a bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha had stopped short of cancelling the 218 coal blocks allocated illegally from 1993 to 2011.

The court, concerned about the impact of its judgment on coal production and industry, had then scheduled a hearing on September 1 to debate the verdict’s aftermath. It was during this hearing that Mr. Rohatgi asked the court whether it could consider sparing the 46 coal blocks to feed the country’s power plants.

But the court had responded by asking if it would not be better to start afresh.

Production figures

The government’s affidavit on Monday cleared the air, dispassionately saying that the “Central government was not insisting on any particular course of action”. It, however, stated for informative purposes that the 46 coal blocks are estimated to produce 50 million tonnes of coal in 2014–15.

The affidavit said the 40 allottees, if allowed to continue, could be made to pay an additional levy of Rs. 295 per tonne as suggested by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. It suggested that they could also be mandated to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with State utilities/DISCOMS to benefit the public.

The government said two of the 40 coal blocks were allocated to an Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP), not declared illegal by the August 25 judgment.

Six ready-to-use coal blocks had been cleared under Rule 9 of the Colliery Control Rules, 2004 to start operations, the affidavit said. The next hearing is scheduled on September 9.

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