Coalgate: Centre`s stand contradictory, says SC

The Centre was at the receiving end in the Supreme Court which said its stand on coal block allocation has been "contradictory".

New Delhi: The Centre was on Tuesday at the receiving end in the Supreme Court which said its stand on coal block allocation has been "contradictory", prompting a flustered Attorney General GE Vahanvati to state that it is "very difficult" and "tremendous strain" to respond to all queries.

The Coal Ministry, which had earlier sought time to place the records relating to identification and allocation of coal blocks, faced fresh questions from the apex court on allotments, forcing Vahanvati to seek adjournment for two more weeks to produce entire record of allotments.

Pushed to the corner by the volley of questions raised by a bench headed by Justice RM Lodha for not placing all the records, Vahanvati, who is known for his gentle demeanour, got agitated, saying, "I cannot carry everything in my head".

"It`s very difficult. It is a tremendous strain. I cannot carry everything in my head. Once I argue on one aspect, another question arises on another aspect. How would I go ahead," he said.

"I have answered about identification of coal block. I have answered about the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) and now the question is about location of coal block," Vahanvati said.

At the outset, the bench also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, pulled up the Centre for taking a stand contradictory to its earlier position.

"This affidavit filed yesterday is contradictory to what you said earlier. On many issues the affidavit is either silent or says something else. You argued something but the documents say something else. Legality of coal block allocation has to be justified by you," the bench said.

The apex court asked the AG for details of 218 coal block allocations by the government and told him to explain block wise allotment of the natural resource.

The AG, who found it difficult to respond to the queries to court`s satisfaction, appeared annoyed and sought time to place all documents.

The bench said it wants complete clarity on the issue of allocations.

"Either we hear you without raising questions and pass our judgement or we ask questions. It we ask questions you are taken by surprise. What should we do," the bench said.

The bench, however, refused to adjourn the hearing, saying there is no guarantee that the "road block" would get cleared on the next date of hearing.

"If we pose question then you said the question has been raised for first time. Giving time is no problem but the same situation might continue on next hearing also," the bench told the AG.

"You proceed with the matter in your own way. We understand your predicament but you have to justify that the allocations are sustainable in law," it said.