Has SECL followed the auctioning route to appoint the Adani Group as MDO for Gare Palma coal block?

The Teck Mining Co open pit Elk River Valley coal mines



Shri Rajiv Gauba

Cabinet Secretary

Government of India

Dear Shri Gauba,

In my letter dated 6-4-023 (https://countercurrents.org/2023/04/most-mineral-block-allocations-violate-the-doctrine-of-public-trust/), I pointed out the lack of transparency in mineral block auctions in recent times, raising concerns of propriety.

I have since come across yet another case of allotment of a mineral block, namely, the Gare Palma coal block in Tamnar Block of Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh by SECL, a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL) to a company belonging to the Adani Group (https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/secl-inks-pact-with-pelma-collieries-for-chhattisgarh-opencast-mine-11692869726053.html), apparently through a non-transparent route.

I have the following objections to the above coal block allotment:

  1. If the said allotment is through nomination without following an open auction, it runs counter to the directions issued by the apex court of India in Civil Appeal No. 4591 OF 2014. In their judgement dated 17-4-2014, reiterating their earlier observations in several other cases, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed “Natural resources constitute public property/ national asset. The State is empowered to distribute natural resources. However, while distributing natural resources the State is bound to act in consonance with the principles of equality and public trust and ensure that no action is taken which may be detrimental to the public interest“. In their directions issued from time to time in the case, the apex court mandated the adoption of an open auction system for the allotment of mineral blocks. This was explicitly made applicable even in respect of public agencies allotting coal blocks to private Mine Development Operators (MDOs). If SECL had not followed a transparent competitive procedure in the instant case, it would amount to violating the norm stipulated by the apex court. It also raises concerns of propriety that need to be investigated thoroughly.
  2. The coal block in question is located in an area notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, where laws such as the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act [PESA] and the Forest Rights Act [FRA] that safeguard the interests of the tribals are applicable. Under both PESA and FRA, alienation of a coal block to a private agency in whatever form it be, requires prior consent of the local tribal Gram Sabhas. Apparently, there was no such consultation with the local Gram Sabhas in this case. As such it is prima facie illegal
  3. Clause 165(6) of the Land Revenue Code of Chhattisgarh prohibits the alienation of land to a private party. Since the coal block allocation in the instant case violates the said Code, it further raises questions of legality.

May I therefore call upon the government to get this matter investigated urgently?


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to the Government of India



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