A bench of Justices R M Lodha and A R Dave entertained a fresh PIL by NGO 'Common Cause' and told attorney general G E Vahanvati to file a comprehensive response to various issues raised by the petitioner including the request for an independent probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
On September 14, the court had entertained a PIL by advocate M L Sharma and sought the Centre's response to six key questions on coal block allotments, including "what were the reasons for not following the policy of competitive bidding adopted by the government of India way back in 2004 for allocation of coal blocks?"
Vahanvati resisted the new PIL by telling the court that it had covered the contentious issues comprehensively in posing those questions and that the coal secretary was in the process of framing answers to those questions. The court gave him time till January 24 to file the affidavit.
But petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan argued that the CBI probe did not inspire public confidence as the registration of FIRs in coal scam left out the obvious names of ministers and their relatives who had been allegedly favoured through allocation of blocks. "Only a probe by an independent body like SIT can bring the guilty to book," he said.
The bench granted eight weeks time to the government and the CBI to file their responses to the PIL and for the time being did not accede to the petitioner's plea for seeking responses from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The CAG in its report had claimed that irregular allocation of coal blocks translated into a windfall gain of Rs 1.86 crore to private parties and that absence of competitive bidding in the process followed by the coal ministry meant that selection of parties was not fair.
The petitioner also requested the court to order an investigation into "how coal blocks allocated for captive use of ultra mega power project of Reliance were allowed to be diverted to non-captive use allowing windfall gain to the private party". It sought cancellation of permission granted to captive coal block users for UMPP to divert coal for other purposes.
It requested the court to "issue appropriate direction to the Union government to recover punitive damages from companies that made false claims or declarations in their applications for allocation of coal blocks and from those companies, joint ventures and firms which defaulted the condition of allotment and undertakings given to the government".