SC notice to seven states over coal blocks

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday issued notice to seven states seeking their response on the allocation of coal blocks by the central government in their territories.

West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra have been asked to respond on issues ranging from their role in the allocations and details of the agreements between state-owned companies and private coal miners.

The apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph directed that the notice to the seven states be served through their standing counsel and listed the matter for Oct 29.

The court wanted to know what was the role of state governments in subsequent steps, having regard to the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act which deals with the regulation of mines in the country.

The judges also permitted that the petition of NGO Common Cause be given to the states along with the written submission by its counsel Prashant Bhushan.

The court order came after it observed that the stand of the central government as spelt out by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati "may be right, may not be right".

In an attempt to dispel the impression of the court as if the central government had encroached upon the domain of the state governments, the attorney general said: "Do the states government perceive that the existing framework on the allocation of coal blocks infringes upon their domain?"

Vahanvati disagreed with the suggestions of the court that "the very right of the state governments to decide the precise area for mining coal is taken away by the central government as it is decided by the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Ltd. and Coal India Limited".

"No, it is not taken away. No state has complained against it," attorney general told the court clarifying the position.

The court sought the opinion of Bhushan and another petitioner advocate M.L. Sharma whether states were needed to be called to clear their stand on the position taken by the central government.

Bhushan agreed to broaden the scope of the hearing.

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