Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) today told the Delhi High Court that the city government’s decision to probe the Centre’s policy on gas pricing was a “peculiar” and “absurd” situation.
The submission was made before Justice V K Shali by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who appeared for Reliance Industries which has challenged the then Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government’s decision to lodge an FIR relating to alleged irregularities in raising the price of gas from the company’s KG6 basin.
Delhi government had also alleged that the UPA government “favoured” RIL with an eye on the 2014 general elections and BJP maintained “silence” hoping to gain corporate funding for the polls. The charges have been denied by RIL and others.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the persons on whose complaint the FIR was lodged, had said the July 23, 2014, the notification on the powers of the powers of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) amounted to diluting its powers.
The July 23 notification has limited the ACB’s powers to probe graft cases to the extent that it can investigate only city government officials and not those of the Centre.
The notification was violative of the Criminal Procedure Code, Bhushan said and added the Centre did not have the power to issue the same with respect to ACB.
Delhi government, on its part, opposed RIL’s submission saying it was only investigating a criminal complaint and central government officials may come in the sweep of its probe.
The Centre, meanwhile, said it is still awaiting instructions on whether the notification will have prospective effect.
After hearing the brief arguments, the court listed the matter for further hearing on January 21, 2015.
The court was also hearing pleas filed by the Centre and Deora, apart from RIL, against the FIR lodged by ACB.
The UPA-II government had moved the court for quashing of the FIR, saying ACB of Delhi government has “no powers or jurisdiction to investigate” complaints against the union government’s decision to fix prices of natural gas.
It had said Delhi government should have approached CBI as it is an appropriate agency for investigation of such cases.
Deora, in his plea filed through advocate Karthik Nayar, has also challenged some earlier notifications, including one of 1993 by which ACB has been given the jurisdiction and power to probe graft cases.
Earlier, Delhi government had submitted before the court that it had received a clarification from the Home Ministry on September 30, 2014, that the notification will have prospective effect.
Delhi government had also stated on affidavit that in 2004, the Centre had signed a long-term gas supply agreements between NTPC and the private firm at the rate of USD 2.34 per mmBtu and later in 2007, the price of gas was fixed at USD 4.24 per mmBtu.
It had also said that later, the gas price, to be paid to the firms with effect from April 1, 2014, was again hiked to USD 8.4 per mmBtu and added that the cost incurred, however, is less than USD 1 per mmBtu.