The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is considering bids for Indraprastha Gas Ltd and Haryana City Gas Distribution Ltd in connection with the supply of piped gas to Gurugram, a burgeoning industrial district abutting Delhi. Indraprastha Gas believes it is in the position of a ‘deemed authorised entity’, while Haryana City Gas disputes this. Even as the two companies filed complaints against each other before the board, a third party, Adani Total Gas, has impleaded itself as an ‘intervener’.

The issue came up before the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL), which was asked to decide upon procedural aspects.

Even as the tribunal was looking into this, objections were raised over whether member-technical of APTEL Dr Ashutosh Karnatak could sit in the hearings at all, because he was earlier a director of Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL), which owns 22.5 per cent of Indraprastha Gas. In another case, Sravanthi Energy Pvt Ltd vs GAIL, the Supreme Court had said he could not participate in orders relating to GAIL. The question over whether that order extended to a company in which GAIL was an investor again travelled to the Supreme Court; but this time, because all parties agreed, the apex court allowed Dr Karnatak to hear the case of Indraprastha Gas vs PNGRB and others including Haryana City Gas Distribution and Adani Total Gas.

APTEL unhappy with PNGRB

An interesting aside in this case was the unhappiness expressed by APTEL over the conduct of the board. The tribunal passed an interim order on October 21, 2022, on a procedural issue — giving Indraprastha Gas liberty to seek deferment of a meeting with PNGRB.

However, apparently due to the uncertainty over Dr Karnatak’s participation, PNGRB had deliberated whether or not to act on APTEL’s interim order, and recorded it in the minutes of the meeting.

This did not go down well with APTEL. “We disapprove of such observations recorded by it in the said minutes. The orders passed by the tribunal are binding till they are varied, modified, vacated or set aside, whether in appeal or in review jurisdiction or by subsequent orders,” it said.

Finally, APTEL disposed of the issue by setting a procedure for the board in dealing with the matter — as agreed by all the parties.

It said: “The learned counsel on all sides fairly agreed that it is not desirable that the parties get embroiled in procedural wrangles of the kind that have come up before this tribunal through the appeal at hand.”

Accordingly, the question of who would supply gas to Gurugram is now on PNGRB’s table. Concurrently, the board will deal with two other ‘geographical areas’ — Noida and Faridabad — in which all three companies — namely, Indraprastha Gas, Haryana Gas and Adani Total — are interested.