New Delhi : The Centre made a candid admission on Thursday before the Supreme Court that something indeed went wrong with the coal blocks allocation and that it could have been done in a more refined manner.
“We took decisions in good faith but somehow it went wrong,” Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati told a three-judge bench headed by Justice R M Lodha.
“In hindsight, we can say something has gone wrong and some correction is required to be made,” he said, virtually accepting that mistakes were committed by the government in coal blocks allocation.
Vahanvati’s response came after the bench observed that the exercise could have been done in a “far better manner”.
“Everything could have been done in a more refined and better manner. I accept my lordships view,” the AG further said.
Vahanvati also argued that at the time the critical need was to increase power generation. “What we did was in national interest. Ideally we should have formed a national policy. Something better could have been evolved in national interest,” he
At the outset of the day’s hearing, the bench asked the AG about the Centre’s stand on de-allocation of certain coal blocks.
In response, Vahanvati submitted that the government would next week make its stand clear on the issue.
The AG had in September 2013 submitted that coal blocks allocation was merely a letter of intent and did not confer any right on the companies over the natural resource which is decided by the state government.
The onus is now on the Prime Minister as he held the coal portfolio from 2006 to 2009, when the allocations were made. We reiterate that he should own up his responsibility and resign. —BJP spokesperson
He had contended that decision of coal blocks allocation to companies is only the first stage and firms get rights over coal only when they start mining for which they have to take various clearances.
The mining states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, however, had earlier told the apex court that coal blocks allocation was “entirely controlled and regulated” by the Centre and they only played a minimal role in the whole exercise.
The court is scrutinising coal blocks allocation since 1993 on three PILs seeking cancellation of blocks on the ground that rules were flouted in giving away the natural resource and that certain companies were favoured in the process.
The BJP immediately took the cue and demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation. “Dr Manmohan Singh, will you permit yourself to be questioned by the CBI? They talk of fighting corruption