SC notice to Jindals on centre’s plea on Utkal coal fields

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to industrialist Naveen Jindal and two of his companies engaged in steel and power production on a plea by the central government challenging the Delhi High Court order directing the review of the merger of Utkal 1 and Utkal 2 coal mines and change in their end use from steel to power.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K.Sikri also ordered the status quo thereby putting the status of two mines in Chhattisgarh to as is where is position.

The matter would come up for hearing in second week of September.

The court order came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the government assailed the Delhi High Court saying that “when you keep new end use you should have kept the earlier end use in mind”.

He said that the two Utkal coal fields were given to Jindals for their steel plant but they were sourcing their coal from other places as two coal fields had not become operational.

“How could the high court sit over the decision arrived at by a technical body. How can there be a challenge based on the preamble a it is like challenging the executive decision on the ground of its being violative of the basic structure of the constitution,” he asked, challenging February 11, 2014 high court order.

The high court had said: “Consequently, we direct that Utkal B-1 and Utkal B-2 be taken off from the subject auction and the specified end-use as also the issue of their merger be reviewed a The same, as regards specification of end-use, would apply to Gare Palma IV/6, which is yet to be put up for auction.”

Appearing for the Jindal, senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the court the government decision would affect their steel plant which they had set up by investing more than Rs. 20,000 crore.

He said that they have introduced a technology that was only of its kind in India, so that the coal from the Utkal coal fields could be used for manufacturing steel.

Unlike power plants, steel manufacturing required a superior quality of coal.

Describing the government action as “malafide”, Sibal said this was done to oust the company from the coal field. “I wanted to bid but I was not permitted” as its end use was changed from steel to power, he said, accusing the government for not following its own “technical criterion”.

Meanwhile, the court also issued notice to Bikash Mukherjee, director of Emta Coal Mines based in West Bengal, Karnataka and Punjab for not complying with the September 24, 2014 order by which the court while cancelling the allocation of 214 coal mines had directed an additional levy of Rs. 295 per metric ton of coal extracted from exempted or operational mines.

Notice was issued to other companies also which had not complied with the court order.

Rohatgi said that Emta group of coal mines have to pay about Rs.3,000 crore.

Directing the hearing of the matter on August 7, the court said that if Emta group pays money by that day, they would be exempted from personal appearance otherwise they would be present in the court.

Meanwhile, Rohatgi also informed the court that Central Bureau of Investigation’s former special director M.L.Sharma has agreed to head the SIT that would investigate if the meetings which then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha had with coal block allocation accused and other had in any way impacted the investigations and subsequent charge sheets or closure reports filed by the CBI in the coal block allocation scam cases.

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