SC asks Centre to justify coal block allocations

Court concerned over lack of transparency at govt level

SC asks Centre to justify coal block allocations

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to justify the rationale behind coal block allocations in 164 cases, while noting that the CBI, which is investigating the coal scam, “is struggling” to get the details.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha observed that it seemed a lot of “deficiencies and infirmities” affected the decision making process during the allocations.

The court was particularly concerned about the lack of transparency at the government level as the CBI was not getting much help in its ongoing probe.

“The CBI is struggling…it has been given nothing (substantial),” the court remarked while going through the latest status report filed by the CBI.

It also noted that the recommendations for allocations were made without recording details.

“There was no system in place. In certain cases, recommendations were changed midway. There was no system of obtaining supporting documents and updating records,” the court said.

The court asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati to file a comprehensive affidavit within four weeks.

“We are concerned about the decisions taken in 36 screening committee meetings. One of the major issues is allocation, if it was made in justifiable manner and if the decision can be sustained within the provisions of judicial review,” the bench said.

Vahanvati agreed that the allocations made during 1993 and 2008 could suffer from certain deficiencies and infirmities and an inter-ministerial group was going through each and every allocation. He submitted that out of 204 allocations, 40 had been withdrawn.

“How many meetings of the screening committee took place? Do you have complete records? What is the factual position? We are not concerned about who got the allocation. How was the decision taken? How do you justify those allocations,” the court asked, while hearing the PILs filed by advocate M L Sharma and NGO Common Cause, seeking cancellation of all the coal block allocations.

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