Turning the spotlight on seven mineral-rich states in the coal blocks allocation case, the Supreme Court Thursday sought explanations from them on their role in allocation of coal blocks amid the Centre’s claim it merely identified suitable blocks and the states had executed the leases.
“It is necessary to have the view of states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal as coal blocks for which allocations were made are located in the states,” said a bench led by Justice R M Lodha.
The court decided to widen the ambit of the hearing by involving these states after Attorney General G E Vahanvati pointed out that the allocations meant issuing letter of intent while all subsequent actions were taken by state governments.
“State governments, with their own perception and view points need to be heard on the issue of allocation now,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
Referring to the issue of allocation of coal blocks to private companies, the bench said it needed “clarity” on the processes followed for allocation of coal blocks. It had earlier observed that the Centre was giving “contradictory” stands on allocations. Vahanvati said allocations were only the first step and it did not confer any rights on the allottees of mining. He put it on the states to explain their role in executing the leases with the private entities.
The court then framed four questions for the states and sought their replies by October 29. It has asked them as to how the state governments understood allocation process by the central government and about their exact role in allocations of these blocks.
It has further asked the states to explain their actions under the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulations) Act after the central government allocated the blocks. The court also asked the states to furnish details of the agreements entered into by state public sector undertakings, which were allotted coal blocks, with private entities. It however refused to pass any order to the companies allotted coal blocks to maintain status quo, stating this can be considered only after hearing them.
The decision to rope in state governments was taken a day after allottees moved the court, seeking an