SC to decide fate of 218 coal blocks today

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will on Wednesday decide the fate of the 218 coal blocks, which were allocated to companies illegally by the Centre.

The top court had earlier declared all 218 coal block allocations since 1993 as illegal and had reserved its decision on their fate.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the apex court that the Centre was prepared for cancellation of all coal block allocations as a logical corollary to these being declared illegal but requested the court whether it could consider saving 46 of them which have either started mining for end-use plants or were on the verge of doing so. Coal block allottees, mostly from iron and steel industry and power sector, said mass cancellation without giving them a hearing could have a catastrophic effect on the economy.

But a bench of Chief Justice RM Lodha and Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph said, “The government understands the economic impact, the consequences and the darkness that will follow. It has its eyes wide open. It can see every possible fallout. It has full competence to take a position on this issue. And the government feels that the impact is not going to be so much.” The allottees, led by senior advocates K K Venugopal, T R Andhyarujina, Harish Salve, Rajeev Dhavan, K V Vishwanathan, A M Singhvi and A K Ganguly, had argued that principles of natural justice demanded that a committee of retired SC judges assisted by experts should look into each case, hear the allottees and then decide whether these needed to be cancelled.

The only discordant note was sounded by one of the allottees, whose counsel Dushyant Dave said if the court was unwilling to send the allocations for fresh scrutiny, then it should cancel all the allocations and not save even the 46 as pleaded by the central government.

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