The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses from the Centre on Jindal Power’s (JPL) appeal against the cancellation of three coal blocks allotted to it in 2015.
A bench headed by Madan B Lokur issued notices to the coal ministry and also asked the parties to maintain status quo. This means that the state-owned Coal India, which is the custodian for the coal field, will continue to look after the coal mine till further orders. JPL, a subsidiary of Jindal Steel and Power, has alleged that the coal ministry’s decision of March 20, 2015 to cancel the auction was “discriminatory,” malafide and “premeditated”.
The government had refused to accept the firm’s bid as the “winning bid” for three coal blocks Gare Palma IV/2 and Gare Palma IV/3, referred to as Gare Palma coal mine, and Tara coal mine. Even the Delhi HC on March 9 rejected JSPL’s claim on the three blocks in Chhattisgarh and Bengal on the grounds that though the company’s bids were the highest, these did not reflect a fair market value.
The HC, however, quashed the decision to allot the cancelled mines to CIL and gave the Centre six weeks to decide whether the Gare Palma coal mine should be reauctioned, or allotted to CIL or any other public sector firm.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for JPL, argued that there was no procedural infirmity in the bid and therefore there was no basis for revaluation. The impugned judgment failed to deal with the fact that Gare Palma and Tara have peculiar features which will be advantageous to Jindal Power.
“One cannot compare the coal blocks as they are different,” he said. Though JPL had emerged the winning bidder for the three mines, the coal ministry did not approve the bids received for these coal blocks, citing reasons of “comparatively low bids”. JPL moved the Delhi HC in March 2015.
JSPL was the previous allottee of both the coal blocks even before the auctions.
Its allotment was cancelled by the Supreme Court in September 2014 along with allotment of 214 other blocks. In an e-auction held subsequently, Jindal had won the bids but the government did not declare them as successful bidders, arguing that the bid did not reflect a fair value.