Govt says NTPC deal can't be equated with private accord

The Supreme Court had sought a response after Anil Ambani-led RNRL had consented to the government being made a party to the dispute

The Indian government on Wednesday filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court on the ongoing gas row between the Ambani brothers saying that the arrangement for State-run NTPC Ltd cannot be equated with any agreement between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL), reports PTI.

The apex court had sought the response after Anil Ambani-led RNRL had consented to the government being made a party to the dispute. RNRL contended that it was entitled to receive the gas at $2.34 per unit from Mukesh Ambani group company RIL which had entered into an arrangement for supplying gas to NTPC at that rate.

"The rights and obligation of NTPC and RIL cannot be regarded as similar in status to the private arrangement as in the case of RIL and RNRL because NTPC is not only a State-run unit but the process involved for price determination in the case of NTPC gas was by international competitive bidding," the government said in the affidavit.

However, the government said the price offered by the contractor to NTPC will require scrutiny and approval of the government under the production sharing contract (PSC).

"The Central government will take an appropriate decision in the case of NTPC as and when a need arises. Such a decision based on public interest, if in favour of NTPC cannot be termed as discriminatory or arbitrary," the affidavit placed before a bench headed by chief justice KG Balakrishnan said.

The government said that a decision in respect of NTPC will be taken when either its rights get established in the pending suit with RIL in the Bombay High Court or if overriding public interest warrants any government intervention.

The decision taken by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) at its meeting held on 12 September 2007, 28th May and 23 October 2008 additionally reflects that it has not excluded the entitlement of NTPC for consideration.

"It may be pointed out that since there exists an ongoing suit between NTPC and RIL the decisions of the Central government were stated to be without prejudice to the rights of NTPC," the affidavit said.

It said any request of NTPC for supply of gas will be considered by the government in the light of the relevant provisions of the PSC.

Further, the affidavit said the Government has on the one hand left NTPC to establish its right in the pending suit in the High Court, and on the other hand it has not foreclosed any options available under PSC. However, such a decision would be taken by a competent authority keeping in view the charter of the State-run unit and other relevant circumstances having a bearing on public interest.

The government clarified that the affidavit filed on 13 January 2009 before the High court was not intended to convey that the government has rejected the case of NTPC or that it has chosen to signify any implied termination of the State-run unit's rights.

The Ambani brothers are engaged in a high-voltage bitter legal battle over the supply and price of gas from the KG basin. While RNRL is seeking gas at a committed price of $2.34 per unit, RIL says it cannot honour the commitment made in the family agreement due to the government's pricing and gas policy.
-Yogesh Sapkale

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