Coal Scam: Coal Allocation Blocks to be Scrapped by Supreme Court?

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Daredevil, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Indications are the Supreme Court is preparing another thunder bolt for the United Progressive Alliance – this time on the issue of coal blocks allocation.

    According to a report in The Economic Times today, the apex court has threatened to cancel all coal block allocations if it finds they were done “without following proper procedures”.

    “Don’t crib. In a democracy such things happen,” the judge reportedly said. Reuters

    This would mean, the UPA is likely to face an embarrassing situation just like in the 2G spectrum case, where the court cancelled around 120 telecom licences.

    More than the threat, it is the language used by Justice RM Lodha which is more damning for the government.

    “The implementation shows that the Ministry of Coal forwarded all applications to the authorities without any scrutiny. There is no system in place to verify facts claimed by companies about their track-record, finances etc. It appears some companies got coal blocks by making misrepresentations,” the newspaper quoted the judge as saying.

    He termed the implementation of the allocation “irrational, arbitrary”.

    According to the ET report, there was some heated arguments between Justice Lodha and Attorney General G E Vahanvati.

    Vahanvati lost his cool and even ranted in the courtroom that the government’s policies are being frequently challenged in the court, to which Lodha retorted for that the government’s policy has to be rock solid.

    “Don’t crib. In a democracy such things happen,” the judge reportedly said.

    Further, when Vahanvati said screening committees had followed their norms, the Judge asked whether these guidelines were applied uniformly or “was it horses for courses”. Justice Lodha also asked why it took so long to introduce competitive bidding in the coal block allocation.

    According to a BusinessLine report, the Central Bureau of Investigation has filed a status report in the Supreme Court, in which it said the government made coal block allocations without “verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves.”

    The three-judge bench headed by Justice RM Lodha, which went through the report filed in a sealed cover, said the report prima facie alleges irregularities, the PTI reported.

    However, according to the report, Vahanvati hit back saying, “CBI is not the final word on this.”

    The court also asked the CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha, to file an affidavit that the status report submitted by the agency on March 8 was “vetted by him and not shared with political executives” and the same will be followed in future.

    The Supreme Court bench directed the Government to explain why a small group of companies have been “picked and chosen” for allocation of coal blocks out of the large number of companies that applied for it, the PTI report said.

    On January 24, the apex court had questioned the Centre’s power to allocate coal blocks to companies, saying it has a lot of “legal explanation” to do as the statutory Act empowers only the states to undertake this task.

    The court had said that the Centre cannot undermine the Mines and Minerals Act which has given no power to it to allocate coal block to companies.

    Coal scam: War of words in SC; UPA stares at 2G-like situation | Firstpost
     
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  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Re: Coal Scam: Coal Allocation Blocks to be Scrapped?

    Coal scam: CBI contradicts Centre's stand in SC

    NEW DELHI: The CBI on Tuesday contradicted the Centre's claim that procedures were scrupulously followed in the allocation of coal blocks under UPA-1, inflicting a major embarrassment on the ruling coalition and leading the Supreme Court to direct the agency to insulate its probe into 'Coalgate' from interventions by the executive.

    A bench of Justices R M Lodha, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur responded to the rare display of divergence between the Centre and the country's premier investigating agency by asking its director not to share anything about coal scam investigations with the political executive and report only to the court.

    CBI has routinely been accused of acting as the handmaiden of the regime of the day, often leading the court to oversee its investigations.

    The apex court ordered the CBI director to file an affidavit by April 26 stating that the agency's March 8 probe status report filed before the court was vetted by him and its contents were not shared with the political executive. "The same arrangement shall follow in future," the bench said. It asked the CBI to submit further status report by April 26.

    The court also wanted the Centre to respond in three weeks to the CBI's prima facie inference in the status report that there was neither any uniform policy for allocation of coal blocks nor was there a system to check the credentials and antecedents of applicants seeking allotment of coal blocks.

    The bench posted further hearing on two PILs by M L Sharma and 'Common Cause' for hearing on April 30 and said it would first decide the legality and validity of the allocations and go into the criminal conspiracy angle later after getting status report from the CBI.

    Attorney general G E Vahanvati gave a historical perspective to the policy decision to privatize coal mining, which was warranted as state-owned Coal India Ltd was unable to meet demands from infrastructure and power sector. "Whatever allocations were made was as per the procedure laid down which evolved through the years. All allocations had undergone detailed scrutiny," he said.

    But the bench said the CBI had said in its status report that "there was no system in place for verification of vital factors like claims of applicant companies, their financial strength and capabilities before allocation of coal blocks to them".

    Hinting at possible conspiracy in the allocation of coal blocks, the bench said the CBI also mentioned that "some companies have obtained coal extraction licences by misrepresenting their strength and capabilities".

    When the attorney general was trying to meet the court's apprehensions based on prima facie views expressed by the CBI, additional solicitor general Harin Raval on behalf of the investigating agency drew the court's attention to a paragraph in the status report, which indicated that 53 coal block allocations were recommended based on guidelines but these "did not reveal the rationale behind allotments".

    When the bench said the CBI's prima facie view was that the allocation criteria was neither uniform nor based on a specified rationale and indicated criminal conspiracy, the AG said the government has filed a detailed affidavit meeting every question posed by the court and lamented that it was easy to allege criminal conspiracy.

    The court said, "Any of your comments must not prejudice ongoing inquiry by the CBI. This requires very objective consideration by the investigating agency. So, if you challenge conspiracy angle then it will have an effect on the conspiracy being investigated into."

    Vahanvati was quick to address the court's concern and said, "I am not trying to pre-empt the CBI inquiry or trying to get certain things here so that the CBI is precluded from going into it."

    The bench said, "Much water has flown down the bridge since the six questions posed by the court initially. The Centre's counter affidavit raises more questions than it answers. A new dimension has been added to the issue by the CBI's status report. Even if we assume that the government has acted according to the rule, the CBI finds no rationale in the allocation of coal blocks."

    Vahanvati tried hard to show to the court from documents that the Centre was not at fault. "In 2004 itself, the Prime Minister's Office had said competitive bidding should be introduced for allocation of coal blocks," he said in an attempt to shield the PM, who held the coal portfolio for some time during the period in question.

    But the bench asked, "If a decision was taken in 2004, why did it take eight years to implement it?" It also said that there were over 2,100 applicants for coal blocks but only 151 were given 68 coal blocks between 2006 and 2009.

    "How were the 1,950 others found ineligible? Your (government's) counter affidavit is neither here nor there. Was there any short-listing of applicants, or it was just pick and choose and horses for courses approach," it asked.

    Coal scam: CBI contradicts Centre's stand in SC - The Times of India
     
  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Re: Coal Scam: Coal Allocation Blocks to be Scrapped?

    Coal scam: SC asks CBI not to share probe details with govt

    The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government appears to be headed for a trouble similar to the one it faced in the telecom scam. The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not to share the details of its coal scam findings with politicians or the executive.

    The court is also set to examine the legality of coal block allocations to see if the declared policy was followed and if no criminality was involved. “If we find the procedure was not followed, the entire allocations will go,” the court warned, echoing the proceedings of the 2G spectrum case, in which 122 licences were cancelled last year.

    CBI has been investigating coal block allocations to private- and public-sector firms over the past three decades. The judges referred to its report and remarked the investigating agency could not find a uniform policy in the matter. The scrutiny of files containing minutes of 34 meetings of the screening panel that allotted the blocks did not follow any rationale. Even assuming the allocating authorities had the competency to do so, the way it was done was “irrational and arbitrary”, the judges said.

    CBI had handed over a status report in a sealed cover to a three-judge bench headed by R M Lodha. Attorney General G E Vahanvati denied any arbitrary policy was adopted, saying: “CBI is not the final word on this.”

    CBI, which has filed cases against 10 firms and their executives in the case so far, and the government were seen differing on the probe in the scam. The agency now has three preliminary inquiries going on, covering allocations since 1993. It has obtained 700 files running into 160,000 pages.

    The government received severe tongue-lashing from the judges, who remarked there were 2,100 applications but the government had given 218 blocks to 68 companies.

    The court was hearing two public interest suits — one moved by Common Cause and another by M L Sharma, a lawyer. These were filed soon after the scam came to light last year, seeking independent probe by a special team, watched over by an SC judge.

    The next hearing will be after three weeks, by when the government can file further affidavit stating its defence.

    Of the 206 blocks allocated, 30 are under production. The government has deallocated 47 due to slow progress since early last year.

    Coal scam: SC asks CBI not to share probe details with govt | Business Standard
     
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  5. VIP

    VIP Ultra Nationalist Senior Member

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    Meri billi mujako meow.....:lol:
     
  6. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    It is a very rare occurrence that the CBI is being directed to act independently of the Centre.

    The SC has to be very careful that at this stage if there is a leakage of the report to the centre or some interference in the investigation then it is going to have serious repercussions on all related cases which will have to filed in the future.

    Good job done. People on both the sides of the aisle must be squirming in their seats right now.
     

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