The Supreme Court on Monday appointed Arun Bhardwaj and Sanjay Bansal as special judges to preside over two separate courts to continue hearing over 40 pending cases in connection with the coal block allocation scam, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde selected the two senior judges on the basis of a panel of names handed over by the Delhi High Court Registrar General. They will replace Judge Bharat Parashar, who has been hearing the cases since 2014.
The Supreme Court had requested the High Court to give names of judicial officers with “high calibre and absolute integrity” to replace Parashar. The court had taken note of the submission of Special Public Prosecutor RS Cheema that as per the law, cases such as these need to be disposed within a period of two years, which may be extended upto four times by periods of six months each, according to Bar and Bench.
The CJI Bobde-led bench also took note of the fact that Parashar had been acting as the special judge in the matter since 2014. It said that it was time to replace him.
During the hearing on Monday, the bench revealed that it received a set of five names for the role. “We believe all of them are good since they have been sent by the Delhi High Court Registrar General,” CJI Bobde said.
At this point, Cheema suggested that two special courts be made to hear matter as there were over 40 pending cases. When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, agreed to this suggestion, the Supreme Court decided to select judges Bharadwaj and Bansal for Special Courts 1 and 2 in order of their seniority.
On the question of Cheema being relieved of his role as the special public prosecutor in the cases, the Court said, “You are so valuable. We can relieve you if you suggest an alternate.”
In August 2014, the Supreme Court had quashed the allocation of 214 coal blocks made by the central government between 1993 and 2010.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India RM Lodha had cancelled all but four of the total 218 allocations, calling them “arbitrary, illegal and amounting to unfair distribution of national wealth”, according to Live Law. The decision had come in response to a plea led by a non-governmental organisation, Common Cause, and others challenging the legality of allocation of coal blocks to private companies from 1993 onwards.