SC reserves verdict on Ambani gas row, Govt asserts title

"Title to the natural gas under the production sharing contract (PSC) vests with government and does not automatically pass to the contractor," Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium submitted before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.

Hearing in the case was spread  26 days since it commenced on October 20. It also witnessed the recusal of Justice R V Raveendran from the Bench after hearing the matter for six days on the ground that he held shares of both RIL and RNRL.

Responding to the contention of Anil Ambani-led RNRL that the title of the gas inevitably passes to the contractor, which is Mukesh Ambani Group RIL, upon reaching the delivery point, Subramanium said the PSC specifically provides for and recognises the fact that "Government is the sole owner of the gas" and the title passes to the contractor only at the delivery point when it sells the gas to the byer".

"Government has its PSC. Please do preserve it and don't allow any interpretation otherwise it would lead to trouble in future," he submitted  before the Bench also comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and P Sathasivam.

"PSC is really one of the nobel instrument by which government control over the gas reservoir. Our PSC is being subjected to lateral attack, interpretation and assault," Subramanium said.

He denied the allegation of RNRL that Government was acting in malafide manner and siding with RIL. "I deny all allegations of malafide. Our problem is independent of the parties in dispute," he said adding that "we (government) are compelled to be present in this dispute as we want to preserve the contract".

He said though RIL and RNRL are fighting over the gas supply and its price, it is the government which has lot of worry as it has to determine the price and come out with means on how the cost of production has to be recovered.

The Solicitor General said the price of gas was brought down from USD 4.33 to 4.20 per unit on the basis of the formula approved by former RBI Governor C Rangarajan.

He said RNRL has been demanding that the gas at the norms of NTPC but allocation of gas has not been made to the PSU.

Earlier, RIL counsel Harish Salve concluded the counter-argument to the submission of RNRL by contending that family MoU of 2005 was not binding for supply and pricing of gas from the KG Basin.

RNRL counsel Mukul Rohatgi said "our only concern is we should get the gas on NTPC terms. I am riding on NTPC agreement".

Salve, while making the submission, said the NTPC contract was perhaps not appropriate. "Why I should repeat the same mistake which I have done with NTPC?" he said.
RIL has entered into agreement with the NTPC to supply the gas from KG Basin at USD 2.34 per unit.

RIL and RNRL are pitched in a high-voltage legal battle for the supply of gas from the KG Basin.

While RNRL is seeking gas at a committed price of USD 2.34 per unit, RIL says it cannot honour the commitment made in the family agreement reached four years back due to government's pricing and gas policy.

Today's hearing commenced with the Bench making it  clear that it will not allow the arguments to spill over after the vacation. The Bench said parties can place their written submission within three to four days.

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