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SC springs coal poser

New Delhi, Sept. 14: The Supreme Court today said it couldn’t be a coincidence that only politicians’ friends, relatives and associates were allotted coal blocks and asked the government to explain why it couldn’t implement a 2004 policy of bidding.

“You (the Centre) may have a well-laid-out policy, but is it a coincidence that all the allottees are only politicians’ family, friends and associates?” a bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Anil R. Dave asked while hearing a PIL seeking cancellation of such allotments.

The judges gave the Centre eight weeks to explain whether it had followed its guidelines in the allocations.

The top court directed the Centre to explain whether the allotment norms had in-built mechanisms to ensure that the process did not lead to “distribution of largesse in the hands of a few private companies”. The judges also wanted to know the “hindrances” to implementing the 2004 bidding policy.

Solicitor-general Rohinton Nariman argued that court intervention at this stage was “premature” as the Public Accounts Committee was already looking into the issues raised by the CAG. “The PAC is looking into it. An inquiry is on.”

Justice Lodha didn’t agree. “That is a different exercise. But is your action within your statutory framework? These can’t be mines of largesse.”

The bench also rejected the contention that the CAG report was not entirely accurate. “The CAG is a constitutional machinery… it has its functions. We are least concerned with the correctness of the report. But the report can form the basis of telling whether the executive was wrong.”