Supreme Court notice to Centre on coal scam
The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on a fresh PIL seeking court-monitored investigation into the coal scam and direction to cancel all coal block allocations from1993 onwards.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and A R Dave also sought the CBI’s response to the petition while indicating that it could look into the constitutionality of the allocations, besides the plea for an investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by an NGO, Common Cause, along with a group of eminent citizens including former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswamy and ex-cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian.
Acting on a PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma, the apex court had on September 14 asked the Union government to explain how coal blocks came to be allocated to politicians or their relatives. The court had then directed the Coal Ministry to state why competitive bidding was not adopted, contrary to its decision in 2004.
The bench, however, refused a plea by advocate Prashant Bhushan to pass a restraint order against those who are yet to start mining operations despite being alloted coal blocks.
“The issue of an independent probe by SIT is always open and we will examine it at the right stage. We will first have to know what is the government's stand and whether there was lack of objectivity or fairness in the decision-making process, how these decisions were made etc. We will go through the reply and examine everything,” the court said.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, sought eight weeks time to file comprehensive replies on both petitions. He said the matter involved analysing a plethora of records from several government departments. The court posted the matter for further hearing on January 24 next year.
During the hearing, the court said it will not let the issue be “politicised” by anyone. The court declined to implead the Central Vigilance Commission a party in the case since it may hamper the commission’s functioning as it will be worried about the matter being sub-judice.
The PIL filed by Bhushan, on behalf of petitioners, sought an investigation into the role of ministers, public servants, Central government departments and state governments concerned in the alleged corruption and bribery by beneficiary companies.
The petitioners, including former Navy chief L Ramdas, urged the court to recover punitive damages from companies that made false claims or declarations in their applications for allocation of coal blocks.