SC Asks Centre to File Comprehensive Affidavit on Pleas Related to Coal Block Allocation in Chhattisgarh

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a comprehensive affidavit from the Centre on the pleas related to a coal block allocation in Chhattisgarh to the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) and mining operations by Adani Enterprise Limited (AEL).

“We need a comprehensive statement on what has happened. We require a statement from the Union of India,” a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

“We direct the Union of India to file a comprehensive affidavit indicating the status of all matters. This shall be carried out within a period of two weeks,” the bench said in its order.

The bench, also comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, asked an Additional Solicitor General to assist it on behalf of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the matter.

The apex court was hearing three petitions including a PIL filed by Dinesh Kumar Soni, an activist from Chhattisgarh, seeking cancellation of the coal block allocated to RRVUNL and the mining operations by AEL for allegedly violating the environmental clearance granted by the Environment Ministry.

Two other petitions have been filed by RRVUNL and Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and others respectively.

In February, the top court was told by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for RRVUNL, that extraction of coal has been halted and the whole matter was at “standstill” and so the case needed to be heard.

Earlier on July 15 last year, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had mentioned Soni’s PIL for urgent hearing which was considered by a bench headed by the then CJI NV Ramana.

Bhushan had said the apex court issued a notice on the PIL in April 2019 and after that it has not been listed for hearing. The PIL has sought a CBI probe into the coal block allocation.

Soni has also sought a direction to RRVUNL to cancel its joint venture and coal mining delivery agreement with AEL and Parsa Kente Collieries Limited (PKCL), a joint venture between the RRVUNL and the AEL, with the latter being the majority stakeholder.

Challenging the PKCL’s shareholding pattern, the PIL said, RRVUNL has 26 per cent stake in the joint venture and Adani 74 per cent.

The petition sought the apex court’s directions to the Centre to cancel the allocation of the Parsa East and Kanta-Basan (PEKB), Parsa and Kente Extension coal blocks to the RRVUNL.

The mining operations were violating the conditions of the environmental clearance granted to RRVUNL by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) concerning the PEKB open-cast coal mine project, the plea claimed.

In June 2007, the PEKB block was allocated to the RRVUNL for Chhabra and other power plants and the RRVUNL chose AEL as mine developer and operator, it said.

The NGT had quashed the forest clearance for the project in March 2014 as the mine was located in a dense forest and declared a “no-go” area for mining after a joint study by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Ministry of Coal.

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