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SC seeks response from Centre on apex mineral body’s plea challenging provisions of Coal Mines Act

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of some provisions of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act on payment of compensation to allottees post-de-allocation of blocks in 2014.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant issued a notice to Ministry of Coal and Ministry of Law and Justice, seeking their response in four weeks.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by apex mineral body Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) challenging the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Rules, 2014, as they do not provide fair and equitable compensation in a time-bound manner to the prior allottees of the coal blocks consequent to de-allocation in 2014.

“Issue directions that section 16 (1), 16 (2) of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act 2015 are arbitrary, discriminatory, vague and unconstitutional to the extent they affect the rights of the prior allottees to get just, fair and adequate compensation for the investments in their respective coal blocks in a time-bound manner,” the plea said.

The plea alleged that the 2015 Act deprives the prior allottees of their properties without payment of compensation and sought directions that they be given fair and adequate compensation with respect to the land acquired for the purpose of developing coal blocks.

The petition contended that by taking advantage of the lacunae in the Act, in providing for specific timelines for disbursal of compensation, the Centre has deprived the prior allottees of their valuable properties without payment of any compensation.

The plea, filed through advocate V Shyamohan, said de-allocation of coal blocks was not the fault of prior allottees and “no criminality whatsoever” is alleged against the majority of the prior allottees.

“Given the fact that the apex court did not intend to penalise the prior allottees it is highly unreasonable and unjust to deprive them of their investments,” the petition said.

FIMI said without paying adequate compensation, the Centre could not have divested the prior allottees of its vested “rights, tile and interest over lands”.

The Supreme Court in September, 2014 cancelled 204 coal mines allocated to different government and private companies since 1993 under the provisions of Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973.