Gas is not a private property of Ambani brothers: Govt in SC

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 20:07

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday opened its
arguments in the high-voltage gas row between the Ambani
brothers in the Supreme Court asserting that any understanding
reached between them was not binding on it as gas was not
their "private property".

"It (gas) is not the private property of RIL or RNRL.
It is a national asset," Additional Solicitor General Mohan
Parasaran said while presenting the Government`s case before a
Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.
No sooner the government commenced its arguments after
RIL completed its submissions, RNRL`s counsel Ram Jethmalani
raised objections to the Petroleum ministry being allowed to
be heard as a party to the dispute.

He said the ministry had dropped its prayer in the
Bombay High Court to be included as a party and was only
accepted as an intervenor.

Countering RNRL`s stand, Parasaran said Government has
every right to be a party as gas is a national asset and a
natural resource.

"RIL (Mukesh Ambani`s group) and RNRL cannot settle
between themselves as to how the gas, which is a national
asset and a natural resource, which vests in the government
and which is to be utilised in the welfare of the nation, is
to be distributed.
"It is not the private property of RIL or RNRL and any
understanding arrived at between them is not binding upon the
government," he said before the Bench, also comprising
Justices B Sudershan Reddy and P Sathasivam.

Parasaran contested the RNRL`s claim that it is
entitled to a particular quantity of gas. "This cannot be
sustained as it is for the government to determine as to who
is entitled to the gas in terms of the Gas Utilization
Policy", he said.

Government started its submission amidst frequent
interruptions by Jethmalani, who said the government stand
cannot be accepted as it had withdrawn all the affidavits
filed by it in the High Court.

He said even today there was no objection to RNRL if
Government assisted the apex court only as an intervener.

However, if the government insists on becoming a party
then RNRL should be granted the right to inspect the orginal
documents and cross examine those who had filed the
affidavits, Jethmalani said.

Parasaran went ahead with the Government stand and
said, "gas has to be distributed in terms of the Gas
Utilisation Policy as approved by EGoM (Empowered Group of
Ministers) and marketing freedom afforded to RIL was subject
to the same".

He said Government`s intervention in the gas dispute
was necessitated by the July 15, 2009 orders of the Bombay
High Court which seriously impinged upon the rights of the
Centre.

The Ambani brothers are locked in a bitter battle over
the supply and price of the gas from 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 due to government`s pricing and gas
policies.

Bureau Report



First Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 20:07

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