Coal is not for charity, says Supreme Court

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SummaryIt is open for the government to give incentive but you must provide level playing field to all.

The Supreme Court Wednesday told the Centre that coal blocks could not be allocated as a “charity” and that it would examine whether a level-playing field was provided by the government to all the applicants for the blocks.

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A Bench led by Justice R M Lodha asked the government to satisfy it that “pick and choose” policy was not adopted by authorities to favour a few companies. “It (coal) is not for charity. It cannot be given for charity,” said the Bench.

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Attorney General G E Vahanvati replied that coal blocks were allocated for promoting social welfare policy and they were not given to companies for commercial exploitation. He claimed that revenue maximisation was not the idea behind the coal allocation and it was done to promote investment in other sectors which were facing hurdles for shortage of power.

“Investment is OK. It is open for the government to give incentive but you must provide level playing field to all players. The question is whether there has been pick and choose policy and whether level playing field was given or not,” it said. During the final arguments, the government also fumbled when the Bench asked it as to how coal blocks belonging to Coal India Ltd (CIL) were allocated to private companies.

“If these coal blocks identified by CIL and Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) are part of the lease hold area of CIL, how further rights could be created in favour of other companies,” the Bench asked AG. It sought categorical explanation on how the identification of coal blocks was done for the purpose of allocation to private parties.

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