Govt ready to re-auction coal blocks

Centre seeks exemption for 40 operational blocks

Govt ready to re-auction coal blocks

The Centre on Monday expressed its readiness before the Supreme Court to re-auction all 218 coal blocks, declared as illegally allocated in view of no objective criteria.

It said that it was difficult to re-auction 40 blocks, which were operational and likely to be ready for end use plants.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha that the Union government agreed with the apex court’s verdict of August 25 and would have no problem if all those allocations made since 1993 were cancelled.

Out of 218 allocations, 80 had already been cancelled. Out of remaining 138, 40 are operational for mining for power, iron and steel and six are likely to start within a couple of months or so. The 40 allocations should be exempted and the remaining could be auctioned, Rohatgi said.

He also urged the court to keep in mind the money spent by those which already started mining coals but put conditions that those (being allowed to mine) have to pay at the rate of 295 per tonne, as estimated by the CAG, and enter into a power purchase agreement at Rs 95 per tonne to make up the loss.

“Our endeavour is to finish the matter quickly. We want to re-auction if the court thinks it fit. The country is facing severe power crisis. The position of power is very very weak. The supply of coal is low and there is gas shortage as well. We want to finish the chapter and go ahead,” Rohatgi said.

The apex court had on Monday last declared all coal block allocations made between 1993 and 2010 illegal, saying that the screening committees and different governments, including NDA and UPA regimes, did not follow any objective criteria, resulting in unfair distribution of national wealth.

The court had then decided to adjudicate further on the repercussion of its order and proposed to set up a panel of retired judges to look into the matter. During the hearing, Rohtagi also expressed the government’s opposition to the apex court’s suggestion of formation of a retired judges committee to suggest ways to deal with the situation.

“We don’t want any committee. If it has to go, all must go. My thought is the government view,” Rohatgi told the bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. The court after taking submission of Rohatgi and other counsel asked them to file an affidavit by September 8 and put the matter for further considerations on September 9.

“The Union government is clear that the auction has to take place. That process of allocation was no process in the eyes of law, it has been found as illegal,” the bench said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO ‘Common Cause’ had urged the court to cancel all allocations saying that it would allow serious players to bid for these blocks who would then mine them efficiently considering the investment they have made in the auction and the state governments would also earn huge revenue from the auction proceeds.

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