Thursday, July 30, 2009

RIL-RNRL Row: Supreme Court to give short date for early decision on Sep 1

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said, it will give a short date to expedite the decision pertaining to the Krishna-Godavari basin gas dispute between Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Indusgtries Ltd (RIL) and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL).

"The matter will be taken up on Sep 1. On that day we will give a short date for early decision in the case", said a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan.

The court in its brief order said, "List the matter on Sep 1 for directions".

RNRL counsels Mukul Rohatgi and Mahesh Agrawal mentioned the matter before the bench seeking an early decision in the case.

In its mentioning note, the RNRL said, "we will be requesting honourable court (SC) to clarify/direct that the main petitions (RIL and RNRL) may also be taken up for final hearing and disposal on and from Sep 1, 2009, the date already fixed by the court".

The court inquired from RNRL counsel whether the the petitioner want an interim order of the court in the case? Rohatgi then replied, RNRL was not looking for any interim order but final disposal of the matter.

Rohatgi further said, all the records of the Bombay high court were before the apex court. It may look into those and decide the matter expeditiously. However, if any party want to file any additional document, they are at liberty to do it, said Rohatgi.

Rohatgi further submitted that all the concerned parties were here. They should not have any difficulty in fast tracking the case.

RIL counsel Harish Salve did not objected to the plea. He however, drawn attention of the court towards the procedural difficulty in constituting a three judge bench to hear the case.

All these will take time and matter may go up for final disposal after Diwali holidays in Oct, said Salve. The court is scheduled to resume on Oct 19 after Diwali holidays.

However, RNRL counsel Rohatgi wanted the case should be given a primacy and decided in the month of Sep itself preferrably within 20 days from Sep 1 onwards as the apex court is scheduled go for the Durga Puja holidays from Sep 21 onwards.

Government’s counsel and additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran also did not objected to the plea of RNRL.

After hearing all the three concerned parties, the court said, in order to fast track the matter, it will give a short date on Sep 1.

On July 20, a two judge bench of the apex court had issued notices to RIL and RNRL on a Special Leave Petition filed by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas seeking quashing of the Bombay high court order directing RIL to supply gas to RNRL at $2.34 per mmBtu. The government in its SLP had said, the high court contradicted its gas allocation policy that favoured priority sectors like fertiliser and power.

The Union government also sought the MoU between the Ambani brothers, according to which the Anil Ambani-led ADA Group is entitled to a share of the gas from the KG basin, to be quashed on the ground that the Ambani brothers don’t own the gas.

The court seeking replies from both RIL and RNRL on centre’s SLP had posted the matter for further hearing on Sep 1 before a three judge bench.

The main petitions, however, were filed earlier in the apex court by both RIL and RNRL. Subsequentlu government had also moved a SLP in the apex court on the issue.

RIL had moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order that asked it to supply 28 mmscmd of gas to RNRL at USD 2.34 per mmbtu. Reliance Industries Ltd in its appeal had alleged that the High Court had erred in deciding the three term s -- quantity, tenure and price of gas supply -- to power plants of RNRL affiliates.

RNRL on the other hand appoched the Supreme Court against the part of the high court judgment. RNRL had said, the high court while directing that the Gas Supply Agreement ought to be amended should have given final and effective directions for amendment of such agreement to make it bankable.