Govt. told to scrap 26 coal blocks
In a new development, the Attorney general, Mr G. E. Vahanvati has advised the government to cancel coal block allocations to private firms since 2005 if these have not been converted into mining licenses following statutory clearances. “I have taken up the matter with the government. I have told them about my views. It is under consideration. I will inform the court about the government’s decision,” the AG reportedly told a bench of Justices R M Lodha, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, which is monitoring CBI probe into alleged irregular allocation of coal blocks.
The decision of the government is expected to have direct repercussions for 26 private allottees. Although they have not got mining licences, these entities, some of them known for their political clout, have benefitted hugely from the allocations. Of the 46 coal blocks allotted to private parties since 2005 under Congress-led UPA regimes and which are currently under the scanner, the government has already de-allocated 15. Of the remaining 31 allocations, two have been granted mining lease by states, while in three other cases, prospecting licence has been given. The fate of allocations has hung in balance since the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its August 2012 report estimated that the allocation of 57 coal blocks to private companies from 2005 to 2009 without competitive bidding resulted in a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer. While the AG’s offer may help Congress feel that it has put the lid on the politically sapping “coal scam”, sections in the government remain concerned that the SC may choose to scrap all allocations, especially those made since 2004 when UPA-1 mooted auctions and the then coal secretary warned of windfall gains to private operators.