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States should decide coal block allocations, Odisha govt tells SC


New Delhi, Dec 5:

The Supreme Court was Thursday told that the allocation of coal blocks rests with the Centre but the grant of mining leases fell in the domain of the state governments subject to the compliance of statutory requirements.

File pic of a coal field
File pic of a coal field

Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh told the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph that it was the Centre that was allocating the coal blocks and they were issuing mining leases.

However, in a divergent note, Odisha said that under the mining laws, the application for the allocation of coal blocks should be made to the state government who too should take call on allocations but it was being done by the Centre.

Jharkhand told the court that the allocation and development resources was the duty of the central government and state governments could not interfere within the allocations made.

While saying that allocation was being done by the centre, Jharkhand said land and minerals were the subject matter of the state, and thus processing of the application for coal mining and order granting licences and approval was done by the state government.

“It means allocation is by the centre, rest everything is done by the state,” observed Justice Lokur, summing up the submission by Jharkhand that allocation falls within the development and regulation and this lies with the centre and the state can’t have a national perspective.

As Justice Lodha asked, “Are you bound by the allocation letter by the centre?”, Jharkhand said: “There is no reason why should not I. Theoretically, the state government could reject allocation as the surface right is not with the prospecting application, but it has not happened.”

At this, Prashant Bhushan appearing for the NGO Common Cause, said there was not a single instance where the centre had allocated the coal blocks and the states opposed it.

Appearing for Chhattisgarh, senior counsel Ravindra Srivastava said it was established that unless the centre issues the allocation letter, the states can do nothing.

He said the identification of companies eligible to apply for coal blocks and the identification of coal blocks was done by the centre.

The state government would grant mining lease subject to compliance of all statutory and environmental norms.

The Supreme Court Sep 26 had sought response from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra on the allocation of coal blocks by the centre.

The court is hearing two PILs seeking the cancellation of coal blocks allocated in an irregular manner.(IANS)