124 Coal blocks cancelled

  • Every tonne of coal mined will be fined

  • Big blow to crony capitalists

  • Care taken to protect the thermal power generation units

(Kasipathi)

New Delhi, September 24: The apex court has on Wednesday delivered a historic order annulling the allotments of coal mines since 1993. It also levied fine on the mines which have been extracting the coal. The Supreme Court has cancelled 214 out of the 218 coal blocks allocated by various governments since 1993. The process of allocation suffered from the “vice of arbitrariness”, the apex court commented. There has been evaluation of merit.

The conclusions drawn by the highest court in the country was a blow to the crony capitalists who managed to get the coal blocks on nomination system circumventing the auction process. The four coal blocks that were spared by the court belonged to three companies, two in public sector and one in private. The Sasan Power (an ultra mega power plant), a private company, got two blocks in auction. The third block belongs to NTPS and the fourth to SAIL, both government undertakings. The companies which have already been operating the mines have been given six months time to wind up their operations.

The SC also levied fine on the coal which has been extracted so far and for the coal to be extracted in coming six months of time before winding up. A penalty is Rs 295 per tonne has been imposed on the coal extracted. Between 1997-1998 and 2013-2014, more than 300 million tonnes of coal was mined. In the next six months more than 50 million tonnes is expected to be extracted. The fine has to be paid on all the coal extracted so far and also the coal that would be extracted in the next six months.

The period mentioned by the SC (1993-2014) is long enough to cover prime ministers like PV Narasimharao, Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh besides a number of ministers who handled the coal portfolio. Dr Singh was in charge of the coal portfolio in the absence of a Cabinet minister after the resignation of Sibu Soren. Dasari Narayana Rao was Minister of State handling the coal portfolio. He was directly reporting to the PM. The CBI is yet to apportion the blame for the loss to the exchequer. The CAG found fault with the way coal blocks have been allocated without auction. Parekh, former secretary to coal ministry, wrote a book on the way the portfolio was mishandled. His stand and that of the CAS stand vindicated by the judgment delivered by the apex court.

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