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SC issues notice on NGO's plea on RIL's gas operations
Monday September 30, 2013 8:12 PM, IANS

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the government on a petition seeking a court-monitored probe into its decision to hike gas prices from $4.2 mmbtu to $8.4 mmbtu, give retrospective tax benefits and not to insist on the relinquishment of gas blocks in KG basin by Reliance Industries.

The notice, on a plea by NGO Common Cause and other eminent people, has also been issued to Reliance India Ltd., the director general of hydrocarbons, and the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI). The petition has sought probe by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) or the CBI.

A bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, issuing the notice, tagged the petition with an earlier one by Left lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta, which too had sought the junking of the hike in gas prices, which he alleged was done to favour the Reliance Industries.

Seeking the quashing of the decision to increase the gas prices effective from April 2014 and to cancel the production sharing contract, Common Cause and others have also sought probe "into the high level collusion between RIL and the political establishment and the corruption involved, including on the aspects of not taking any action against RIL for hoarding the gas,..."

Besides the NGO, others who have moved the PIL include former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, former navy chief Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas, and former secretary in government Ramaswamy R. Iyer.

As the court tagged the PIL with that of Dasgupta, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Reliance Industries, told the court that except for the prayer regarding the gas pricing, the rest four other prayers in Common Cause's PIL were distinct from that of the left law-maker.

The petitioners have also sought levying of "appropriate penalty against them because of RIL's persistent failure in adhering to their commitments, deliberate underproduction, gold plating and mala fide conduct".

The PIL said that new gas prices should be applicable only for fresh auctions for unexplored greenfield areas and not to existing discoveries.

It has sought a "through independent audit by the CAG along with other eminent auditors and experts from the field of gas extraction, of working of the PSC governing KG block, gold plating by RIL, the underproduction by RIL and all related issues..."

The PIL has urged the apex court to direct the government to credit the $7.2 billion premium amount collected by RIL from British Petroleum (BP) by sale of 30 percent of its stake in the oilfield towards reduction in cost of exploration and extraction of gas.

The notice is returnable in three weeks.




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