Coal block allocations since ’93 illegal: SC
In a landmark verdict that has far-reaching political and economic consequences, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has held that all the 218 coal block allocations since 1993 were illegal, arbitrary, and non-transparent without any objective criteria.
- To take a final call on de-allocating all the 218 blocks
- Consequences of cancellation likely to be far-reaching
- Centre welcomes ruling, ready to act on final orders
New Delhi: In a landmark verdict that has far-reaching political and economic consequences, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has held that all the 218 coal block allocations since 1993 were illegal, arbitrary, and non-transparent without any objective criteria.
However, unlike its verdict in 2G case where it cancelled all the 121 licences, the court took a cautious approach as it wanted to address the consequences of its verdict and how to tackle it. The next hearing is on September 1. Former CAG Vinod Rai had put notional loss at Rs 1.76 lakh crore in 2G scam, and Rs 1.86 lakh crore in coal scam.
"There was no transparency by the companies as well as the central government," Chief Justice R M Lodha said in his observations. "On many occasions guidelines had been breached, the approach casual and at times illegal," said the bench of Chief Justice, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph.
The judgment covers the tenures of all the political parties – Congress, United Front, the BJP-led NDA – but the major political implication is that the previous UPA government headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh gets another body blow to its reputation. Singh, who has been personally seen to be above board, will have to shoulder the major burden of this Coalgate scam as 155 of the 218 allocations were done under his watch. Moreover, he failed to adopt the policy of auctions, even though it had been recommended right from 2004. Having already lost power in May 2014, the Congress has nothing more to lose, but for Singh the damage to his reputation could be irreparable. The economic consequences would be far-reaching. Even as Union Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal welcomed the judgment, its details would unfold only on September 1 when the apex court spells out its plan of action for the various coal blocks.
“I am happy that the honourable Supreme Court announced its judgement on the coal block allocations scam. I respect it,” the minister said, while adding that after this the economy could now move forward rather than being cast in the shadow of uncertainty. He also said that the government was ready to act quickly once the final decisions were taken by the court in the case.
The apex court on September 14, 2012, had for the first time issued notice on the PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma and later an NGO, Common Cause, and other public spirited persons joined him in the matter which saw CBI facing tough time and government getting pulled up for alleged interference in the probe.