Alleges conspiracy to create artificial shortage of gas to get a higher price

The Aam Aadmi Party Government in Delhi on Tuesday ordered filing of criminal cases against Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily, former Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani and former Director-General of Hydrocarbons VK Sibal for alleged irregularities in pricing of natural gas in the KG basin.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Delhi’s anti-corruption branch has been asked to file an FIR against them based on complaints received by four eminent citizens.

According to Kejriwal, former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian, former Expenditure Secretary EAS Sarma, former Navy Chief Admiral RH Tahiliani and senior lawyer Kamini Jaiswal had complained that the two Congress ministers and officials had ‘colluded’ with RIL to create an artificial shortage of gas to get a higher price.

Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal said he would urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to put the decision on hold. “If artificial scarcity is being created and RIL is unable to produce gas, then why can’t the Government hand over those wells to a state-owned entity, such as ONGC?” said the Delhi Chief Minister.

Quoting from the complaint, Kejriwal said the impact of the hike in gas price would cost the country a minimum of ₹54,500 crore a year and allow RIL to make windfall profits of ₹1.2 lakh crore.

He said, “From April 1, 2014, gas prices will go up to $8/unit and people will have to bear the brunt because prices of transport, power, fertiliser and food will shoot up.”

Moily reacts

Reacting to Kejriwal’s allegations, Petroleum Minister Moily said: “One should sympathise with his ignorance... he doesn’t know how Governments run,” adding that “norms are followed... there is a system in fixing prices”. Later, when asked if the Delhi Government had the jurisdiction to probe the case, Kejriwal said it was a case of concurrent jurisdiction.

Law point

Congress spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Agitational politics takes very long to become governance politics. In law, Kejriwal certainly has the power to become a citizen FIR filer. Whether that is the objective for which he was elected is a question which he will find difficult to answer to the electorate.”

Another legal expert said the Delhi Government may well be within its rights to file an FIR. He said Kejriwal may be taking advantage of an anomaly wherein the Delhi Police was not under the administrative supervision of the Delhi Government, but under the Home Ministry, he added.

Last year, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta had raised the pricing issue a number of times and, along with EAS Sarma, filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court alleging the Government had ‘conspired’ with RIL to enable them to make “exorbitant, unreasonable and excessive” profits in gas exploration in the KG basin at the cost of the exchequer.

(This article was published on February 11, 2014)
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