Citizens' Issues
Coalgate: Supreme Court seeks Centre's explanation

The Supreme Court also questioned as why the names of politicians and their relatives have cropped up among the alleged illegal allotees of coal blocks in which the policy of "competitive bidding" formulated by the government in 2004 was not followed

 
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain Union government's plea not to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) on alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks and sought an explanation whether guidelines were flouted in allotments, reports PTI.
 
The apex court, which turned down the Centre's contention that the petition based on the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report which is under the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament cannot be considered, said "the petitioner has sought to point out illegality and there is nothing wrong in it." 
 
A bench comprising justices RM Lodha and AR Dave said the prayer seeking a direction for alleged "unconstitutional" and "arbitrary" allocation of coal blocks "requires explanation from you (centre) because it is not the distribution of state's property in small scale but it talks about tons of largesse." 
 
Further, the bench questioned as why the names of politicians and their relatives have cropped up among the alleged illegal allotees of coal blocks in which the policy of "competitive bidding" formulated by the government in 2004 was not followed.
 
The bench rejected Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman's contention that the petition based on the CAG report was "premature" as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi was slated to examine it from 20th September about the correctness of allocation. 
 
"Nevertheless, keeping in view the CAG is a constitutional functionary and whether its report is final or not, it has a value. And here the petitioner has sought to bring point to show illegality and there is nothing wrong.
 
"Least is we concerned with the correctness of report which will be examined by the PAC or Parliament. But we can rely on it (CAG report)," the bench said adding that "these are different exercises (before the court and PAC)." 
 
"There is a difference in the exercise done by the PAC. Parliament and PAC can proceed with the issue on the basis of the CAG report. We don't want to encroach upon their exercise but the petition raises different things altogether. There are sufficient averments which require explanation from you," the court said.
 
Issuing the notice to the Indian Government, the bench also made it clear that it is confining itself only to the aspect of guidelines formulated by the Centre for allocation of coal blocks and directed the Secretary, Ministry of Coal, file a detailed affidavit within eight weeks on the guidelines and policies followed on the subject of allocation of coal blocks.
 
The court passed the order while hearing a PIL filed by advocate ML Sharma on the alleged coal blocks scam which has purportedly caused a huge loss to public exchequer.
 
The bench said the affidavit shall cover the guidelines framed by the government for the allocation of coal blocks.
 
It said the Secretary should also elaborate the process adopted for allocation of these coal blocks and whether the guidelines had an in-built mechanism to ensure that the allocation of coal blocks does not lead to distribution of largesse unfairly in the hands of few private companies. 
 
The bench also sought to know whether the guidelines for allocation of coal blocks were strictly followed and whether by their allocation, the objectives of policies were realised.
 
The bench wanted to know what were the hindrances for not following the policy of "competitive bidding" adopted by it in 2004 for allocation of the coal blocks.
 
Lastly, the court sought to know what steps were proposed to be taken against the allottees who have not adhered to the terms of allocation or have breached the agreement.
 
The apex court also made it clear that it is primarily concerned with the aspect of the adherence of the guidelines and policies concerning the allocation of coal blocks and all other aspects including the demand for the CBI probe into the alleged irregularities is not taken at this stage.
 
During the hearing, the Solicitor General informed the bench that the criminality aspect of the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocation was already being looked into by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
 
"We are at present touching the allocation part and no other thing," the bench said.
 
"Our focus is on the issue of guidelines followed in the allocation of coal blocks," it added.
 

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SC quashes High Court's gag order on reporting troops movement

The apex court said Allahabad High Court erred in passing such order as ban on media was not sought and the prayer was only to hold an inquiry into the controversial incident

 
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday quashed Allahabad High Court order, which had prevented media from reporting on the controversy related to alleged Army units' movement towards Delhi on 16th January amid the then prevailing row over erstwhile Army Chief VK Singh's date of birth, reports PTI.
 
A bench of justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad allowed the plea of Press Council of India (PCI) which had challenged the order saying that court cannot impose such a ban on media as it violates the freedom of speech.
 
The bench said the High Court erred in passing such order as ban on media was not sought and the prayer was only to hold an inquiry into the controversial incident.
 
"We are of the opinion that the High Court should not have passed the order as the prayer before it was entirely different and it was inconsonance with the prayer made by the petitioner," the bench said.
 
The Court also took into account its recent Constitution bench judgement which had said press can only be directed to postpone the reporting for a certain period.
 
The Centre also said it was against the High Court's order and it should be quashed.
 
The High Court had directed various Central and state government authorities on 10th April "to ensure that there is no reporting/release of any news item by the print or electronic media on the movement of troops." 
 
The high court's order was passed on a PIL which said a national daily and a news magazine had reported on movements of the Army units from Agra to Delhi when the Singh's age row controversy was at peak. The petitioner had said the reports were against national interest.
 
The PCI had approached the apex court saying the order was in violation of the fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, granted to the media and every citizen of the country.
 

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Monsoon still active, withdrawal delayed for 7th year

This will be the seventh straight year when the withdrawal of monsoon, which normally begins in the first week of September, has been delayed to third week of the month


After steering the country away from a drought, the late rally of south-west monsoon is likely to continue for at least another week thus delaying its withdrawal, reports PTI.

 

"Southwest monsoon will continue to bring rains for a little more time, for a maximum of one week. Withdrawal of monsoon is delayed," Swati Basu, officiating Director General, India Meteorological Department (IMD), told PTI.

 

She said monsoon was still active in the northwest region which spans across Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

 

However, she said this would be the last phase of seasonal rains as monsoon would begin withdrawing from West Rajasthan sometime next week.

 

This will be the seventh straight year when the withdrawal of monsoon, which normally begins in the first week of September, has been delayed to third week of the month.

 

Even in 2005, when the withdrawal had started on 2nd September, the progress had stalled after the initial phase with the next push taking place towards month end.

 

Usually monsoon withdraws from the entire country by September end, but in the past eight years this has been delayed till as long as 11th October.

 

Copious rains in August and the first half of September has helped dispel fears of a widespread drought, which seemed imminent after deficient rains in June and July.

 

The remarkable August rally saw 22 of the 36 meteorological sub-divisions get excess or normal monsoon.

 

However, monsoon was still 8% short of the average rains for the country which are pegged at 89 cm.

 

The country as a whole has received 739.5 mm rainfall between 1st June and 13th September as against the normal of 801.3 mm for the period.

 

The month of August saw the country receive 264.7 mm rainfall as against the normal of 261 mm, showing an excess of about 1%.

 

In June, the country received 31% deficient rains than normal while July saw a monsoon deficiency of 13% which had prompted the government to roll out a slew of measures to tackle the then impending drought-like situation.

 

Till yesterday as much as 64% of the country has received normal or excess rain this season, while the rest have had deficient rainfall, IMD data showed.

 

Saurashtra and Kutch, Punjab, Gujarat region, Haryana, West Uttar Pradesh, Marathwada and Bihar are the regions worst hit by deficient rains. Rainfall deficiency in these regions range from 54% to 20%.

 

Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura have also received 33% deficient rainfall since the delayed onset of monsoon this season.

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