SC rejects pleas against Coal Ordinance

SansadTV Bureau

coal_miningThe Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed petitions filed by two firms including the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) Ltd against the Ordinance that has paved way for auctioning of coal mines across the country.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also rejected separate pleas of three private firms including Jindal Steel Ltd and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) that the time to pay penalty for alleged illegal mining be extended beyond present deadline of December 31.

The firms had also prayed that they be allowed to participate in the auction process without paying the penalty by December end.

They also alleged that one of the clauses of the recent Ordinance bars a firm from taking part in the auction process if it does not pay the penalty within the stipulated time.

“The idea was to collect the penalty and not to create a situation where we cannot pay,” senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for one of the firms, said, adding that the time to pay be extended and firms be allowed to take part in the auction process.

“I am strongly opposing this. They have come at the last moment. This is misconceived,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said.

“We are not inclined to grant the relief,” the bench, also comprising justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, said while
rejecting the pleas of the three firms.

At the outset, senior advocates P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of Mumbai-based BLA Industries Pvt Ltd and sought exclusion of the firm from the ambit of the Supreme Court’s September 24 judgement.

The court had quashed allocation of 214 out of 218 coal blocks allotted to various companies since 1993, terming it as “fatally flawed” and allowed the Centre to take over operation of 42 such blocks which are functional.

“I have nothing to do with the screening committee. I never applied to the Centre. This is not the case where the Centre or the screening committee procedure was followed,” Chidambaram said.

“The judgement of this court does not apply on us,” Sibal said and toed the submission of Chidambaram that the coal blocks were alloted to the company on the recommendation of the state government which had applied its independent mind.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause and advocate M L Sharma opposed the plea of the firm.

Bhushan alleged that CBI had already registered a case against the company in the coal scam.

BLA Industries was allocated two blocks – Gotitoria (East) and Gotitoria (West) mine in in Mahapani coalfields of Madhya Pradesh in June, 1996.

The bench then said that it was not inclined to allow this plea also.

Earlier, the court had dismissed a batch of pleas filed by firms including Tata Steel, Rathi Steel and Prakash Industries and some joint venture companies, having state-owned firms as partners seeking impleadment and re-look of its earlier verdict by which allocations of coal blocks were quashed.