A bench of justices DK Jain and Anil R Dave issued a notice to the Centre seeking its reply on the PIL which also sought an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General into the various aspects of the deal
New Delhi: The Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response to a plea challenging the validity of the $8.5 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal and seeking a CBI probe into the reasons for ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) and government in “not asserting”their legal rights on the issue, reports PTI.
A bench of justices DK Jain and Anil R Dave issued notice to the Centre seeking its reply on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which also sought an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into the various aspects of the deal.
It also sought the CAG audit of the government's approvals for acquisition of majority stake of Cairn India by Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources on the ground that the offer in this regard should have gone first to the state-owned PSU (public sector unit) ONGC.
On the PIL, the bench issued notices also to the ONGC, Cairn Energy and Vedanta Resources.
Earlier, on 2 March 2012, a bench of justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad had recused itself from hearing the plea.
The PIL filed by a Bangalore resident Arun Kumar Agarwal stated that the ONGC, in an agreement with Cairn group, had a clause that in case the Cairn Group wanted to sell its shares in Cairn India, it would first offer the same to the ONGC.
As per the clause, Cairn could sell its shares to other parties, only after the ONGC refused to buy the stake and the ONGC, thus had the right of first refusal (ROFR), it said.
It alleged that the decision on the deal had been made on “extraneous considerations” and without taking into account the relevant aspects.
The petition said had the ONGC, which was Cairn India’s joint venture partner, been offered its ROFR for Cairn India’s shares and had it exercised its right, the exchequer would have benefited by over Rs1 lakh crore.
Cairn Energy, however, signed a deal with the Vedanta group to sell its shares in Cairns India, without making an offer to the ONGC, the PIL said.
Cairn India, a subsidiary of UK-based Cairns Energy, is the operator of the Rajasthan oil block.
It entered into an agreement with UK-based Vedanta Group on 16 June 2010 to sell 51%-60% of its shares in Cairn India, for a consideration of around $8.5 billion, without offering the shares to its partner ONGC in the joint venture as per the agreement of right of first refusal, the PIL had stated.
Mr Agarwal was also the first complainant in the 2G spectrum scam resulting in the lodging of the FIR.
“It has been observed that per second billing system is more acceptable among majority of the subscribers, because it ensures that subscribers pay only for the actual usage,” said TRAI
The Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) has made it mandatory for all telecom service providers to offer at least one, per paisa per second tariff plan. The sector regulator has also allowed telecom operators to have up to 25 different tariff plans, in total. Consumer organisations have lauded the move stating that it will brings more clarity in tariff plans. But they pointed that such plans need to be popularised as they are deliberately kept away from the users.
“The rationale of this order is to bring clarity to the tariff plans. Many a times people choose a plan based on less charges per seconds, but in the billing the calculation is entirely different. What is more important is that service providers should advertise these tariff plans aggressively instead of keeping consumer in the dark,” says Anil Prakashan, president, Telecom Users Group.
HK Awasthi, legal head at Consumer Voice, an online magazine on consumer awareness, seconds the view. “Since 96% of the subscribers are pre-paid, service providers should educate them about what really per pulses rate plans are and how are they calculated. It is a good move by the regulator.”
TRAI’s directive said, “In order to ensure that per second billing remains an assured alternative option for all subscribers, it has been decided to mandate that all service providers shall offer at least one pre-paid and one post-paid tariff plan with the pulse rate of one second for local and national long distance calls.”
The telecom regulator had analysed various tariff offers available in the market. It found all the service providers have per second billing plans. “It has been observed that per second billing system is more acceptable among majority of the subscribers, because it ensures that subscribers pay only for the actual usage,” said TRAI.
RK Verma, president, Chandigarh Telecom District Telephone Subscribers Association, told Moneylife that, “TRAI should only allow one tariff plan. Allowing so many plans only leads to confusion. All service providers have per paise per second plans. But they are hardly known to the consumers. All the details are available through the customer care department of the service provider. So customers who want to subscribe to such plans have to call the company’s customer care centre, for which they are charged.”
Meanwhile, TRAI has allowed telecom companies to charge up to four times the existing rates for premium services such as phone calls and text messages sent to participate in reality shows on TV and radio.
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