A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, saved only four blocks--one belonging to NTPC and SAIL each and two allocated to Ultra Mega Power Projects--from being cancelled.

The bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, granted six months breathing time to mining companies to wind up their operations in the coal blocks.

The bench also directed the companies, which were allocated coal blocks but had not operationalised them, to pay compensation to the government for the loss of exchequer. It accepted the findings of the CAG which came to the conclusion that the loss of Rs 295 per tonne was caused due to the non-operation of the mines.

The Apex Court also noticed the stand taken by the NDA government that it is "fully prepared to face socio-economic impact" if the coal block allocations were cancelled.

During the earlier hearing in the case, the UPA government had opposed cancellation of coal blocks allocation saying that around Rs 2 lakh crore had been invested by various companies after blocks were allotted to them.

The Apex Court had on August 25 held that all coal blocks allocation since 1993 by various regimes at the Centre have been made illegally and arbitrarily.

The Apex Court, which had used almost all terms to condemn the procedures adopted by 36 screening committee meetings since 1993, however, had stopped short of cancelling them saying, "what should be the consequences, is the issue which remains to be tackled." 

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