Moneycontrol
Oct 13, 2017 06:37 PM IST | Source: PTI

Delhi HC doesn't stay summons to RIL officials in gas pricing FIR

Justice A K Chawla issued a notice to the Delhi government, whose Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) had summoned the RIL officials, seeking its stand on the company's plea for the stay of the summons.

Delhi HC doesn't stay summons to RIL officials in gas pricing FIR

The Delhi High Court declined to stay the summons issued to officials of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) in connection with the FIR against it on alleged irregularities in raising the price of gas from its KG-6 basin.

Justice A K Chawla issued a notice to the Delhi government, whose Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) had summoned the RIL officials, seeking its stand on the company's plea for the stay of the summons.

The court said its earlier order that "no coercive steps" be taken against RIL would continue to operate till the next date of hearing on November 14.

However, senior advocates Harish Salve and Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for RIL, strongly pressed for a specific interim order that the company officials would not be summoned.

To this, the court said the RIL's plea for stay "cannot be decided without their (Delhi government's) response".

Three RIL officials were issued summons by the ACB in September this year.

RIL lawyers said that subsequent to the high court's August 2016 verdict holding that Delhi government's ACB does not have the power to investigate central government employees, the instant FIR "is only a piece of paper".

The August 4, 2016, judgement of a division bench of the high court had held that powers of the ACB were limited to probing graft cases in various departments under the administrative authority of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and not extending to central government employees.

But the ACB was still investigating the instant FIR in which the accused also included a former Union minister, the lawyers for RIL said.

On the other hand, Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh said while the high court had earlier said that no coercive steps be taken, it had also asked RIL to cooperate with the ACB investigation.

Apart from the company, erstwhile UPA ministers M Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora (since dead), RIL's chairman Mukesh Ambani, former director general of hydrocarbons V K Sibal and other unidentified persons were named in the FIR lodged by the ACB.

All of them have denied the allegations.

The Delhi government has already challenged in the Supreme Court the high court's August last year decision which also ruled that the LG was the administrative head of the national capital territory.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during his first stint had asked the ACB to lodge an FIR in the matter.

The FIR was lodged by the ACB on a complaint sent to the chief minister by former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, former secretary E A S Sarma, former navy chief R H Tahiliani and advocate Kamini Jaiswal.

The then UPA-II government had also moved court to get the FIR quashed, saying the Delhi government's ACB had "no powers or jurisdiction to investigate" complaints against the Centre's decision to fix prices of natural gas.

The FIR was lodged under sections for cheating and criminal conspiracy of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The complaint had alleged that the impact of gas price rise would cost the country a minimum of Rs 54,500 crore per year at the dollar price then.

(Disclosure: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.)
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