20 review petitions filed on SC ruling cancelling 204 coal block allocations

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 19 2014, 14:30pm hrs
As many as 20 review petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court (SC) regarding its recent judgement that cancelled all 204 of 218 coal blocks allotted to mining companies between 1993 and 2011 and directed levy of penalties at the rate of R295 per tonne on coal extracted so far.

Generally, review petitions rarely succeed as the grounds raised are limited and the court would have considered almost all aspects raised in fresh pleas.

Independent Power Producers Association of India, JSW Energy, Bhushan Power, Prism Cement, Monnet Ispat, Jindal Steel & Power, Usha Martin and others have filed review petitions stating they were not heard and the SC should have appointed a fact-finding committee, which could have given opportunity to them to present their cases, thus they were deprived of their vital rights.

However, many state utilities have not filed their review petitions, saying they have been taken care of by the ordinance issued by the Central government last month that approved a plan for e-auctioning the cancelled blocks to end-user private players of coal from the power, steel and cement sectors and enables commercial mining by private companies in future. Even the government entities, including public sector units such as NTPC and State Electricity Boards, will not have to go through the auction route as a pool of coal mines will be reserved for allocations to them from the cancelled blocks.

The companies further stated that they had acted on the governments representation and had followed all the applicable laws/procedures in the grant of coal blocks, which have been allocated by six democratically elected governments over the last 20 years. The uniform procedure adopted by the UoI for 20 years, ought not to be held to be illegal.

The petitioner was a bonafide allocatee of the coal block and it had no reason to believe that the procedure was not followed by the government... Thus the petitioner cannot be penalised for procedural and other lapses on the part of the UoI, the review petition filed by JSW Energy stated.

The SC should have appreciated that for the so-called arbitrary/wrongful act of the government, it could not and should not be penalised, said JSW Energy, which was allocated the Utkal A and Gopal Prasad (West) coal block in Odisha jointly with JSW Steel, Mahanadi Coal, JSL and Shyam DRI Power for establishment of an integrated plant.

Several thousands of crores of investments have been made based on the grant of coal blocks... the entire funding by banks and FIs have been done to the project taking into account the assured fuel for end-use plants by the captive coal blocks. Even third parties including vendors, lenders etc have acted on the basis of government allocation made in favour of coal allocatee, the allocatee stated.

According to them, the courts reasoning that the state government is the owner of the coal blocks and under the MMDR Act 1957 the application should have been submitted to it was totally erroneous as finally the grant of coal block has been made pursuant to the consultative process between the state governments and the Central government.

Pursuant to declaring the entire allocation of coal blocks from 1993 till 2009 as illegal on August 25, the Supreme Court had in September cancelled all 214 of 218 coal blocks allotted to mining companies for their captive use. However, it exempted two coal blocks allotted to Sasan Power Ultra Mega Power Projects, operated by Reliance Power, and one each given to state-run NTPC and SAIL. The cancellation is effective March 31, 2015.