New Delhi, Jan. 24: The Supreme Court today 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 fundamental question is whether the executive is empowered to allocate the coal. Because if you are allocating coal, then you are also compelling the state governments to enter into a mining lease with the private players," the bench comprising justices R. M. Lodha and J. Chelameshwar said.
According to the bench, there is no provision in the mines and minerals act which gives the Centre power to allocate coal blocks to companies.
In November 2012, the apex court had sought the response of the Union government on three PILs seeking cancellation of the allocation of coal blocks to private companies between 1993 and 2012 and a court-monitored probe into the allocation by the CBI or the Special Investigation Team.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for NGO Common Cause, which had filed one of the PILs, sought a status report from the CBI, saying nothing has emerged since July 2012 when the agency had registered an FIR.
Additional solicitor-general Harin Rawal sought four months to place a report on the probe and assured the investigations would be fair and transparent, and conducted against all persons alleged to be responsible for illegal allocation.
He, however, opposed the suggestion of the petitioner that the CBI has to file a status report in the apex court on the investigation conducted so far.
The additional solicitor-general promised to share the conclusions of the findings. But the bench was irked by the offer and observed, "It is very strange that you want to share the ultimate conclusions but not the status of the probe conducted so far".
The bench then directed the CBI to place before it within four weeks the status of the investigation.