New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the government, asking it to explain whether it had followed its own policies and guidelines in the allocation of 194 coal blocks to the private sector players that had come to fore in the wake of the CAG report.
Issuing the notice, the bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Anil R. Dave also asked the government to explain why it did not follow the competitive bidding process laid down in a 2004 policy.
"What was hindering in not following the bidding process," the court asked Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman who was representing the government.
The notice has to be answered by the coal secretary in eight weeks.
The bench observed that it would look into the issue even if parliament's Public Accounts Committee was examining the matter. This statement came when Nariman told the court that PAC would be looking into the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on cola block allocations Sep 20 and described as "premature" the PIL petition based on the report.
The court said the scope of scrutiny by it was different from the examination of CAG report by the PAC. "We are not encroaching upon the area of the PAC but the PIL has raised certain serious issues that requires explanation by the government," it observed.
The court made it clear that it was not going into the alleged criminality in the allocation of coal blocks but whether guidelines for the allocation of the coal blocks were adhered to or not.
The court order came on public interest litigation by advocate M.L. Sharma who sought the scrapping of the allocation of all 194 coal blocks and a probe into irregularities in the allocation.
The court also asked the government to respond on what steps it proposed to take against people who did not adhere to the guidelines in the allocation of coal blocks.
It also asked the government to tell it if the guidelines had an inbuilt specific mechanism to guarantee that allocation of coal blocks does not lead to distribution of largesse in the hands of few private companies.
The government was also asked if it realised the objective that was sought to be achieved by the guidelines, while allocating the 194 coal blocks.