Ambani brothers are usurping national resource, Govt tells SC

Ambani brothers are usurping national resource, Govt tells SC

Asserting its ownership over gas from KG-D6 fields, the government, on Saturday, hit at the Mukesh and Anil Ambani groups for “surreptiously” appropriating national resources, treating it as their personal and family property.

Anil Ambani group firm RNRL, on the other hand, in an affidavit accused the government of “blatantly and openly” supporting Mukesh-led RIL’s “unlawful design” to wriggle out of its obligation to supply gas.

Seeking a stay on the June 15 Bombay High Court order on gas supply on the basis of a family agreement, the government said in a petition before the Supreme Court that the MoU between the Ambanis was “blatantly illegal” and in disregard to the provision of the Production Sharing Contract (PSC). “(The MoU) should be declared null and void,” as it would mean that all the gas from the KG basin would be owned and utilised by RIL and RNRL, said the petition, a day after the Oil Ministry filed an affidavit in connection with cross- appeals by the group firms of the two Ambanis.

Cannot hold hostage
“Obviously, the pressing needs of the priority sectors... cannot be allowed to be held hostage to the benevolence and mercy of these two respondents,” the petition said, praying for continuation of sale of gas from KG basin to users other than RNRL.
In its earlier petition, RNRL wanted immediate supply of gas at US$2.34 per mmBtu, which is 44 per cent less than the official rate, while RIL said it cannot supply fuel without the government’s consent.

In fast moving developments ahead of the hearing on cross appeals of RIL and RNRL on Monday before a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, the government filed a special leave petition apparently to ensure that it is able to raise issues that were not touched by the High Court. Just before the government SLP, RNRL filed the affidavit, its second since Tuesday, seeking to strike off the affidavit filed by the Petroleum Ministry in the capacity of an interevener as named by RIL. The Bombay High Court judgement does not cause any prejudice to the government or its interest, the RNRL affidavit said and requested: “It is therefore submitted that the affidavit dated July 16, 2009 filed by the Petroleum Ministry should be struck off from the record.”

Making new plea
RNRL claimed that the oil ministry was now seeking to “reintroduce allegations, statements and averments that were withdrawn before the High Court” and said that the ministry for the first time has made a new plea that the price for the purpose of valuation of gas was the same as the sale price.The government petition said that under the PSC, gas was its property and RIL as contractor does not have rights to utilise the gas, which could be sold only at a price approved by the administration.

“Knowing fully well that the gas does not belong to them and that... (they) are bound by the terms of the PSC, the respondents (RIL and RNRL) have appropriated through MoU, in a surreptiouos and unauthorised manner, the entire gas, treating the same as their personal and family property.” Stating that any understanding arrived at between RIL and RNRL was not binding upon it, the Oil Ministry affidavit said that government was the sovereign owner of natural resources and has the rights to expeditious production of gas.

Asserting that gas should be produced without any hindrance in public interest, the government said: “The interim arrangement as approved by the High Court in the order dated January 30, 2009 may be permitted to continue.”

It also said that the High Court judgement be set aside with regard to the interpretation of the gas utilisation policy and provisions of the PSC.

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