Nagpur News : Supreme Court has issued notice to the Union Government on the publice interest litigation filed by city’s former MP Banwarilal Purohit against the allocation of coal blocks to private companies, terming the government’s move as against the provision of Coal Bearing Areas Act 1957. Justice RM Lodha and Justice AR Dave of special bench of Apex Court issued the notice on Monday after accepting Purohit’s petition for hearing. Purohit revealed this in a press conference conducted here on Tuesday.
In his petition, Purohit has questioned the constitutional veracity of all the coal block allocations to private companies after 1993, pleading to recommend the cancellation of the same. He alleged that allocation process and acquisition of coal bearing areas by the Central Government and those leased out by State Government are clearly illegal as it violated the rule of law. Purohit said that the Centre has allotted coal blocks to private companies based on the amendments under Coal Mines Nationalization Act.
Senior advocate KH Deshpande informed the court that petition aims at presenting those finer legal points on which no judicial decision has been taken yet. Quoting the petition, he said that according to the provisions of Coal Bearing Areas Act 1957, the acquiring and allocation of coal blocks should be made only to the public sector undertakings. Only the central government has been vested with rights to acquire coal bearing areas. Allocation of the coal blocks to private companies just on the basis of amendment to coal mines act, without amending the coal bearing areas act, is non-constitutional and illegal.
The coal bearing area act says that no private company can be included to partner in the land having any possibility of coal reserves. Ignoring this fact, the government has functioned on its free will and not only violated the coal bearing areas act but also overlooked the mines development law.
Purohit clarified that the word ‘company’ used in Coal Mines Nationalization (Amendment) Act refers to Public Sector Company or its subsidiary, and not the private company. Article 3(3)(c) of the said act rules that the government is entitled to lease out the piece of land to any private company on the condition that the company or board under its ownership feels that the small coal bearing area does not hold importance in scientific or economic development.
Advocate Deshpande informed to the court that in 1997 also Purohit has raised the issue of legal hurdles in allocation of coal blocks before the High Court bench, in which Purohit challenged the allocation of Bhadrawati coal block to Central India Coal Company owned by Mittal. At that time the High Court expressed concern over the matter saying that the case should be seriously dealt with.
Now, Purohit has taken the issue to Supreme Court, challenging the allocation of coal blocks to private companies.