New Delhi: The Supreme Court will decide how coal companies would conduct Internet-based auctions to ensure the participation of greater numbers of bidders and restrict the number of bids by one bidder.
The apex court will consider the matter on appeals by subsidiaries of state-owned Coal India Ltd, or CIL, that point at a couple of bidders who bombarded the auction website with a large number of requests, which prevented other bidders from participating in the Web-based booking.
A bench headed by justice Arijit Pasayat is hearing the appeals filed by Western Coalfields Ltd and South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. It has posted the matter for hearing after the court’s summer vacation.
However, the bench refused to vacate a stay granted against the Bombay high court judgement that asked the coal firms to not blacklist or debar the traders from participating in future e-booking or e-auction.
The high court had accepted that the attempts by two traders—Sangita Sales Pvt. Ltd and Victorian Marketing Pvt. Ltd—were abnormally high, but prevented the CIL subsidiaries from taking stringent action since there were no rules that bar such attempts.
According to the coal companies, Sangita Sales and Victorian Marketing, which registered with service provider M Junction Services Ltd to buy coal from CIL through e-booking, had bid 311 and 195 times, and the average time taken for 30 bids was four and 12 seconds, respectively.
The companies were identified by looking at customers that placed more than 100 requests in 15 or less seconds, the appeal has said.
If a bidder follows the prescribed method of sending booking requests, it was not possible to send such a large number of requests in such a short time without using special software, the petition filed by Anip Sachthey, a lawyer, stated.
“The use of such software has the potential to cause damage to the server and impede the working of the website, both of which are offences under the Information Technology Act, 2002,” the petition said.
CIL introduced e-booking in October 2007,