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Why do so many netas have coal blocks, Supreme Court questions

Author: Dhananjay Mahapatra
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 15, 2012
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Why-do-so-many-netas-have-coal-blocks-Supreme-Court-questions/articleshow/16403361.cms

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to explain in eight weeks its policy guidelines on coal block allocation and the actual process adopted for 194 coal mines which have been faulted by the Comptroller and Auditor General for causing undue gains to private players.

 "This is not distribution of state properties in a small way. It is mines of largesse, not even tonnes of largesse. By the way, is it a mere coincidence that so many politicians, their relatives or supporters were benefited in the 194 coal block allotments," a bench of Justices R M Lodha and A R Dave asked solicitor general R F Nariman.

 The remark from the bench, which can potentially add sting to the opposition's offensive over Coalgate and give jitters to the beneficiaries of controversial allocation of coal blocks, came on a PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma urging the court to cancel the 194 allocations on the ground that the allotment process was arbitrary, illegal, unconstitutional and against public interest.

 The justices, who appeared to be aware of not just the magnitude of the "scam" but also the names who have been generating headlines in connection with Coalgate, had some searching questions for the solicitor general: something that led many to wonder whether the stage was being set for a judicial intervention which may surpass in scale the apex court's monitoring of CBI's investigation into the 2G scam.

 In fact, Justices Lodha and Dave did not agree with Nariman when he argued that while the petitioner had based his PIL on the CAG report, the findings of the federal auditor could not be deemed to be final until those had been scrutinized by Parliament's PAC and debated by the two Houses.

SC: Won't encroach upon PAC's exercise

 The same bench of Supreme Court Justices R M Lodha and A R Dave which took up a PIL on coal block allocations on Friday had earlier turned down a PIL seeking its intervention on the basis of CAG's critique of private players who have been operating Delhi and Mumbai airports. It said the logic did not work in the case of Coalgate.

 "We are not on the correctness of the CAG report. But will it be wrong for a petitioner to rely on the CAG report to question the correctness of government's action," the bench said, adding, "The question before the court is two-fold — whether there was illegality in the allotment of coal blocks and what action be initiated under criminal laws? We are sorry. The PAC's exercise on the CAG report is different from the court's process. We do not want to encroach upon PAC's exercise. This is a matter which requires explanation from the government."

 When the SG said the CBI was already investigating the matter, the bench said, "We know the CBI is already investigating. That is why we are limiting the notice to the coal ministry to the petitioner's first prayer which is for cancellation of the coal block allotments. This is not a distribution of state properties in a small scale."

The bench added, "Many may not be involved in the irregular allotment. We do not know. Some may perfectly deserve. It is for the government to answer all these questions whether guidelines were followed for an objective scrutiny.
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