The Supreme Court declined to halt the November 9 e-auction of coal mines in Jharkhand but clarified any action of the Centre will be subject to its final orders.
The top court directed that any allocation which may take place will be provisional in nature.
A bench of Chief Justice S.A Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: "In the meantime, any action in the matter that may be taken by the defendant(s) (Centre) shall be subject to the orders of this court. The defendant(s) shall take care to inform any recipient of any benefit of any nature that the action is provisional in the sense that it will be subject to the orders that may be passed by this Court."
There are a total 38 coal mines listed for e-auction, out of which nine are located in Jharkhand. The e-auction was scheduled from November 2-9.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal assured the court that in the meantime, no trees will be cut and no mining will start. His response came on a query put forth by senior advocate Fali S. Nariman, representing the Jharkhand government, that no trees should be cut in the meantime.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also appearing for the Jharkhand government, informed the top court that the auctioning is in the final stage.
Bid allocation provisional
At this, the Chief Justice said: "We will pass orders. Also please inform the recipients of bid allocation that this is provisional in nature."
The top court has listed the matter for further hearing on December 8.
On the last hearing on Wednesday, the AG had vehemently argued that any stopping of the auction would cripple the development process, during the hearing of the Jharkhand government's original suit against the Centre's decision to auction coal blocks in the state.
The Supreme Court had said it wants to ensure that forests are not destroyed due to mining as no economic value is placed on them. The Chief Justice emphasised that the court's only concern is that resources should not be depleted forever.
The top court observed that it is thinking of setting up an expert committee to assess the impact of mining in coal blocks near eco-sensitive regions in the state.
The Chief Justice told the state government counsel and the Attorney General: "You don't put an economic value on forest. You put it on timber. We don't want to stop the development of country in anyway, but forest is a natural wealth, which cannot be eroded either."
The Jharkhand government challenged the process of commercial coal mining, stating that it has an environmental impact, and the tribal population and its forests are likely to be adversely affected.
(With inputs from IANS)