Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today told the Delhi High Court that an FIR against it on the alleged irregularities in raising the price of gas from KG 6 basin, be quashed as the AAP government was “never entitled” to lodge an FIR against it. Seeking that its petition against the FIR lodged by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi government in 2014 be allowed, the company told Justice A K Chawla that the ACB did not have the jurisdiction to probe such matters. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for RIL, also referred to the August 4, 2016 judgement of a division bench of the high hourt which had held that powers of the ACB were limited to probing graft cases in various departments under the administrative authority of the lieutenant governor (LG) and not extending to central government employees. He submitted that the division bench verdict was in the company’s favour and even the Supreme Court has not yet stayed the Delhi High Court’s August 2016 decision.
The Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan told the court that they have already challenged the August 4, 2016 verdict has already been challenged in the Supreme Court. He said the apex court has given the assurance that it would soon constitute a Constitution bench to decide its appeal challenging the high court verdict holding the LG as administrative head of the national capital territory. Narayan submitted till that time the matter be adjourned. The Delhi government’s counsel also informed the court that “at present the probe in the matter has been stalled and nothing is happening”. It said no prejudice would be caused if RIL and the Centre’s pleas against the FIR were kept pending till the apex court decided the case. Taking note of the submission, the court listed the matter for hearing on November 22.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during his first stint had asked the ACB to lodge an FIR in the matter. Besides the company, erstwhile UPA ministers M Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora (since dead), RIL’s chairman Mukesh Ambani, former director general of hydrocarbons V K Sibal and other unidentified persons were named in the FIR lodged by the ACB. All of them have denied the allegations. The FIR was lodged by the ACB on a complaint sent to the chief minister by former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, former secretary E A S Sarma, former navy chief R H Tahiliani and advocate Kamini Jaiswal. The then UPA-II government had also moved the court for quashing of the FIR, saying the ACB of the Delhi government had “no powers or jurisdiction to investigate” complaints against the Union government’s decision to fix prices of natural gas.
The FIR was lodged under sections for cheating and criminal conspiracy of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The complaint had alleged that the impact of gas price rise would cost the country a minimum of Rs 54,500 crore per year at the dollar price then.