The Delhi High Court (HC) directed the government on Monday to maintain status quo on two Chhattisgarh mines for which the highest bid by Naveen Jindal-controlled Jindal Power (JPL) had been cancelled.
While passing the order on Tara coal block till April 16, the court also asked the ministry how it can allot a mine to Coal India Limited (CIL) when the block had been earmarked for allocation through auction.
The query was raised after the court was informed that the coal ministry had annulled the tender process to allot CIL two mines- Gare Palma IV/2 and IV/3 in Chhattisgarh-for which JPL had put in the highest bid.
A Bench of Justices BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva asked the Centre that how it could switch from allocation to allotment while hearing JPL's petitions challenging the government's March 20 decision.
The HC issued notice to the ministry and directed it to file response in two days with regard to the Gare Palma mines and listed the matter for further hearing on March 26.
It also asked the ministry to bring the relevant records regarding the tender annulment and to place it before the Bench for its perusal.
With regard to the plea on annulment of tender process for Tara coal block Tara, the court sought the government's response by the next date of hearing, April 16.
In its two petitions, JPL has sought quashing of the March 20 order as well as directions to the government to declare it as the successful bidder for the three mines and to award them to it.
During the proceedings, senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subramaniam and Rajiv Nayar, appearing for JPL, contended that the only reason the government had given for cancelling their bids and annulling the tender process was that the highest bids did not reflect a fair value.