New Delhi: Government on Monday rejected BJP's demand for immediate cancellation of 142 coal block allocations but appealed to the Opposition to allow Parliament to function and participate in a debate on the issue.

"The demand for cancellation of all 142 coal blocks allocated after 2004 is not founded on sound logic.... It (cancellation) cannot be done through dictat or arbitrary orders," Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.

"There is a procedure for it and that procedure is underway," he said.

He was reacting to the BJP's demand for immediate cancellation of 142 coal blocks and an independent probe before any discussion can take place on the issue in Parliament.

Chidambaram also termed as "outrageous" the BJP's demand for resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The BJP's demand for an inquiry is "a little belated" because CBI has already commenced probe, he said.

Explaining the government's position behind not accepting the demand for cancellation of coal blocks, he said an Inter-Ministerial Group is going into the issue and a date of September 15 has been set for a decision.

"The process is underway," he said, adding the government has "done all that needs to be done" without going into merits of CAG report.

He said the Prime Minister's Office has indicated that the government should have a final set of recommendations from IMG as early as possible.

"Therefore, it is my fervent request to the Opposition to start the debate in Parliament. All of us are ready to begin the debate. It is only through a face-to-face debate that clarity will emerge," the Finance Minister said.

On the demand for independent probe into coal block allocations, Chidambaram said the CBI was already inquiring into it. "If there are any irregularities or any illegalities, then the CBI will go into it. It is the criminal aspect of it," he said.

With regard to the BJP stance, he said the Prime Minister has made an "unprecedented offer" that he is willing to debate and discuss the issue in Parliament.

"People expect us to debate and we owe it to the people," he said.

Chidambaram said "government has done all that needs to be done" and his fervent and earnest appeal to the Opposition is to return to the Parliament.

"Let us start debate. A face to face debate is the only way in which clarity can emerge and people can judge. You cannot hop from studio to studio to carry on a debate", he said.

Chidambaram also pointed out that CBI has already inquired into the allocation of iron ore mines in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

Insisting that the existing policy for coal block allocation was enforced since 1993, Chidambaram asked "why 2004 is cut-off date" sending a signal to BJP that the probe into the matter could also expose the alleged wrongdoings in the allocations made during NDA rule.

"If the policy is flawed it is flawed since 1993," he said while admitting it is "indeed a setback" to the purpose for which the policy was brought in to ensure coal supply to captive power and steel plants to meet the country's energy needs as coal could not be mined in 100-odd blocks allocated before and after 2004.

He said 58 of the coal blocks allocated since 1993 are in no-go areas or wildlife corridor areas. There the problem has to be sorted out in favour of mining or disfavouring mining.

The Finance Minister said that in 32 coal block allocations, the allottees have been cautioned, while in 52 cases show cause notices have been served.

"These 32 blocks have been cautioned by the ministry. But opportunity is to be given to the party to present their sides before deciding whether the allocations of coal blocks are to be cancelled or not. It cannot be done through a dikstat in an arbitrary order," he said.

Chidambaram said the inter-ministerial group is examining the proceedure and government will surely take action if any irregularities are reported.

To questions on whether the government will agree to the demand for a judicial inquiry into the matter, Chidambaram shot back "what is the purpose of the judicial inquiry?" and dismissed contentions that CBI cannot hold an impatial probe into the matter since it functioned under the central government.

Chidambaram, who heads the GoM on Media, was fielded by Congress to counter the Opposition attack on the party and the government over the issue. Last week had seen Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid addressing the party press conference with spokespersons.

The Finance Minister refrained from making any direct attack on CAG by saying thousands of words have already been spoken and millions written.

Chidambaram denied any parallel between the coal block allocation issue and 2G spectrum case saying there are "crucial differentialities" between the two while maintaining that both these policies were initiated during NDA rule.

He said there was not any auction in this case but only allocation.


Latest News from India News Desk