New Delhi: In a move that spells fresh trouble for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the central government over alleged irregularities in coal block allocations. The national auditor, the Comptroller of Auditor General (CAG), has found that the wrongdoing could have cost the exchequer Rs1.86 trillion.
The coal ministry is expected to give its explanation on whether there were irregularities in the allocations within eight weeks.
The notice came in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the cancellation of 194 coal block allotments made between 2005 and 2011. The PIL also claimed that these blocks were arbitrarily assigned and none of the chosen companies had a mining plan in place. According to television reports, the apex court also rapped the government for questioning CAG on the report. It said that CAG was a constitutional functionary and it has its role to play.
Meanwhile, PTI reported more coal block allotments will be cancelled, following the ones scrapped on Thursday, citing coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. The inter-ministerial group (IMG), which is in the process of reviewing the allocations, is meeting on Friday afternoon.
The ministry has cancelled the allotment of coal blocks to four companies and decided to encash the bank guarantee of one of them.
The CAG report tabled in Parliament on 17 August had also alleged a lack of transparency and objectivity in the allocation of the coal reserves totalling 43.35 billion tonnes.
Among the blocks cancelled on Thursday was the Bramhadih block in Jharkhand allotted to Castron Mining Ltd; Chinora and Warora (Southern Part) blocks in Maharashtra given to Field Mining and Ispat Ltd; and Lalgarh (North) block in Jharkhand allotted to Domco Smokeless Fuels Pvt. Ltd, a coal ministry press release said. The Marki Mangli-II, III and IV block allotment in Maharashtra to Shri Virangana Steels Ltd was cancelled and the bank guarantee encashed, the release added.
The Congress-led UPA government has been battered by a series of corruption scandals such as the one related to coal blocks and spectrum allocation irregualirities.