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Coal case: Screening panel under SC scanner | The Indian Express

Related. The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Centre over the functioning of the screening committee for allocation of coal blocks in which certain private companies were allegedly preferred despite not figuring in the recommendations by competent authorities. The court was also critical of the Centre for its “laxity” in deallocating coal blocks from entities which held them for long without meeting necessary clearances even as Attorney General GE Vahanvati informed it that the process of deallocation has been put in motion. The apex court raised questions on the working of the screening committee for considering some of private companies which were not in the list of recommendations of Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and ministry of power. A three-judge bench headed by Justice RM Lodha wanted to know from the Attorney General about the guidelines and parameters followed by the screening committee in coal block allocations, saying the minutes of meetings did not reflect these factors. The bench said it was necessary for it to know the norms for allocation as there were no affidavits of the members of screening committee who were involved in the decision-making process for allocation. “The allegation is that allocations were made arbitrarily and it smacks of favouritism,” the bench, also comprising Justices MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said while making it clear that “decision-making process can be explained only by those who were involved in the process and not by an outsider”. “What appears to be for sure is that the screening committee is not accepting the broad guidelines,” it observed while hearing the issue of allocation of coal blocks by screening committee in 2007-08 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding charge of the coal ministry. Referring to one screening committee decision, the bench said it needs explanation as out of 28 recommendations, it accepted 20 and rejected another 8 while adding on the application of 11 private companies for allocation of coal blocks on its own. “What was the criteria adopted by the screening committee to exclude eight. Why 11 were added by the screening committee which were not recommended by the CEA and ministry of power. What makes screening committee to add or include the 11 companies/applicants. Please look into it and tell us,” the bench asked the Attorney General. At the outset, Vahanvati said de-allocation process for the coal block allocations made between 1993-2008 has been put on motion and the private parties to whom allocation has been made for 61 blocks has been asked by the Centre to clear deficiencies within four to six weeks for obtaining mining lease. However, the bench questioned the Centre for waiting for so long in taking decision for de-allocating the coal blocks. “Why there was laxity till now?” the bench asked.
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