Centre admits to faulty coal block allocation

Centre admits to faulty coal block allocation

The Centre’s top law officer on Thursday admitted before the Supreme Court that something had indeed gone wrong in the allocation of coal blocks, one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance II government.

Attorney General (AG) Goolam E Vahanvati, during a hearing on a petition to cancel coal block allocations, submitted that he was ready to accept that things went wrong, while maintaining that the government’s intentions were good.

“I accept that something had gone wrong. We took decisions in good faith but somehow it turned out to be wrong,” Vahanvati told a three-judge bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha.

He answered the court by saying the whole exercise of allocating coal blocks could have been done in a better manner.

“In hindsight, we can say something has gone wrong and some correction is required to be done,” said Vahanvati.

“Everything could have been done in a more refined and better manner. I accept my lordship’s view,” he added.

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to latch on to the admission and demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation. Singh held the coal portfolio in the Union cabinet from 2006 to 2009, when the allocations were made.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “We reiterate that (PM Singh) should own up his responsibility and resign.”

The Congress, however, rejected the BJP’s demand. Party leader Meem Afzal said: “It is the habit of the BJP to seek the resignation of the prime minister. We do not pay heed to it.”

On Wednesday, the court asked the government if it was ready to consider cancelling coal block allocations made after 2005 where leases had not been executed or no substantial work done.

The bench had virtually cornered the government by observing that the huge investments made by companies in those allocations could not be the reason for not cancelling them. In their submission, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh claimed that they had played a small role in coal blocks allocation, but blamed the Centre for the alleged irregularities.

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