Govt trying to shield Moily from Kejriwal

Govt trying to shield Moily from Kejriwal

The Congress-led UPA government is moving to try and protect Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily from the complaint filed by former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, which alleges that Moily conspired with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited to inflate the price of natural gas.

The government has constituted two committees to take steps to defend the government’s decision to raise gas prices, since it was a decision of the Union Cabinet.

The first committee comprises Moily himself, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The second committee will have the secretaries of Petroleum, Home, Law and Finance ministries, besides Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati.

The Home Ministry is planning to direct Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung to declare the FIRs as non est (nonexistent in law) after getting an opinion from the Law Ministry.

Even so, it has been reliably learnt that the ministers and bureaucrats will closely guide the government on how to deal with the case if the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi proceeds with the probe.

There are already two PILs pending before the Supreme Court regarding the pricing of natural gas from the Krishna Godavari basin. The government moving ever more cautiously in the fresh case to avoid any further embarrassment in days ahead since the gas pricing decision was approved by the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Last month, Kejriwal had ordered the ACB to register FIRs under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Moily, former Petroleum minister Murli Deora, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and former Director General of Hydrocarbons V K Sibal for allegedly conspiring to inflate gas prices.

The Delhi government’s FIRs cover a gas pricing formula approved by the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in June, that would raise the price of gas from $4.2 per unit to $8.4 per unit from April 1, with price calibration every quarter.

The FIR was registered on the basis that most of the alleged offences, including the decision to finalise the price hike, happened in Delhi, therefore, giving the ACB jurisdiction to conduct the investigation.

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