Were allocated coal blocks leaseheld with CIL, SC asks

New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the government whether coal blocks allocated to the private companies were in the leasehold area of the public sector undertaking Coal India Limited.

The court's query came as it perused the paper placed before it by the government indicating that the coal blocks allocated to the private companies were in the leasehold of the CIL.

The papers contradicted the repeated assertion by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati that the blocks given to private companies were free from any encumbrance.

"The question is termination of lease. If lease has not been terminated, how could any new lease be created?," asked the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph.

The government has to tell the court whether there was a legal impediment in offering coal blocks to private companies from coal fields in CIL's command area, itb said.

Saying that it was faced with an entirely new dimension of the matter, Justice Lodha said: "We are confronted with the task whether the coal blocks allocated were ultra vires and within the known parameters of rules."

The government has, all through the hearing of the petition, been seeking the cancellation of coal blocks irregularly allocated to private companies, and has maintained that it had not allocated those coal blocks to private companies which were in the interest of the CIL.

Vahanvati sought time to respond to the poser by the court, and the court adjourned the hearing till Sep 24.

Unable to read any precise position in the government's stand, court said perhaps our thought processes were at variance.

As petitioner NGO Common Cause's counsel Pranav Sachdeva urged the court that it could proceed with other aspects of the coal allocation, Justice Lodha said: "Without there being clarity on this, do you think we can proceed on it?"


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