SC closes 22-year-old Enron-Dabhol bribery case

SC closes 22-year-old Enron-Dabhol bribery case

The Supreme Court on Thursday closed a matter related to alleged complicity of top politicians and bureaucrats in executing a power purchase agreement between the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) and the Dabhol Power Company on November 8, 1993, causing losses to the public exchequer, in view of long delay.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said no useful purpose would be served by reopening the issue by continuing with a judicial commission of inquiry or reconstituting it.

"Though normally in such a case a judicial inquiry should have been conducted but as far, more than a quarter of century has elapsed since the first PPA was executed. The foreign corporation (Enron) and the original project proponents are no longer available. Most of the senior officials would have retired and virtually no action can be taken against them," the court said.

It also noted the judicial commissions like Justice Kurdukar Commission, even if continued or reconstituted, will take its own time.

The matter before the court was pending since 1997 on a plea by the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) against the Bombay High Court's December 2, 1996 ruling that dismissed the writ petition challenging validity of power purchase agreement.

The Maharashtra government had asked the court to close the Enron-Dabhol power project case where politicians and bureaucrats were allegedly bribed to clinch the deal.

The court had earlier sought to know the steps taken on recommendations by Energy Review Committee which had recommended a judicial probe into the entire Enron power project deal. This was an indication of its keenness to take issues of political corruption to logical end.

Notably, the Committee headed by Dr Madhav Godbole upheld the allegations of bribery, causing losses to MSEB and the public at large. It was critical of then Congress leader and former chief minister Sharad Pawar, the 13-day BJP-led Union government which reworked the deal in 1996, then Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray and his government in Maharashtra headed by Manohar Joshi.

As the US power company Enron pulled out of the Dabhol project and went bankrupt, the plant was shut in 2001.