A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha is hearing PILs seeking cancellation of the coal block allocations in which the CBI has undertaken probe against each and every company allocated coal block since 1993 and "in particular during the period 2006 to 2008."

The bench asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati "to prepare the compilation of reports of all the screening committee meetings from July 14, 1993 to March 31, 2011 and the guidelines which were followed in the coal block allocations."

"We are not considering the individual applications of the allottees. We are examining as to whether any unfair practice was adopted on the decision-making process. Whether it was in accordance with law or it was done in an arbitrary manner," the bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said.

The court, which wants to know "whether any policy was in place" for the purpose of coal block allocation", said "minutes of each meeting of screening committee will make things clear about each allocation". Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who is also appearing for the Centre in the matter was told by the bench that the pointed question to you is whether coal block allocations were made to private firms for captive consumption or not?

"When was the scope of private participation in coal block allocations expanded... When was this cabinet decision amended?" the bench asked him. During the hearing, the court asked the Attorney General to apprise it of the role of state governments in the coal block allocations.

Vahanvati said that the law was amended as there was shortage of power in 1992-94 and Coal India Ltd (CIL) was not able to produce enough coal. "CIL was not in a position to explore and mine the coal required for electricity production," he said.

Advocate ML Sharma, who has filed one of the PILs, said that on March 24, 2005, the Prime Minister had approved the policy of competitive bidding for the allocation of coal blocks. He also said that Department of Legal Affairs, in 2004, had also given its opinion to the Coal Ministry that the competitive bidding process be adopted in coal block allocations.

"This was not a policy decision, it was merely an opinion (of Legal department) that never culminated into a policy," the court said.

(Agencies)

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