SC notice to Centre on coal mining in Chhattisgarh

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking cancellation of coal block allocation in Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) and the mining operations by the Adani Enterprise Limited (AEL) for violating the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The petitioner has also sought the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into it.

After hearing the petition, an apex court Bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, ordered issuance of the notice to the Centre and other stakeholders.

The petitioner urged the court to ask the 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 AEL being the majority stakeholder.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for petitioner Dinesh Kumar Soni, an activist in Chhattisgarh.

Challenging the PKCL’s shareholding pattern, the petitioner said: “The RRVUNL has 26 per cent stake in the joint venture and Adani 74 per cent.” It also sought directions to the CBI to initiate a criminal probe against officials of the RRVUNL, the Coal Ministry and the PKCL/AEL.

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

The mine operations, it alleged were violating the conditions of environmental clearance granted to the RRVUNL by the Ministry of Environment and Forests with regard to the PEKB open-cast coal mine project.

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

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

“The area is also an elephant habitat and the man-elephant conflict might increase if the mining was allowed,” it said.

An appeal against NGT order is pending in the apex court. But the it is being operated under the working permission granted by the apex court in April 2014.

The petitioner also alleged the PKCL was discharging the wastewater directly into the nearby rivers and lakes, causing severe water pollution. “Not just villagers, numerous animals whose lives depend on these water bodies are suffering the dangerous effects of the polluted and toxic water,” the petition said.