Gas scarcity, pricing: Case filed against India's richest man, oil mantri

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government's Anti-Corruption Bureau Wednesday filed cases against Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily for allegedly creating artificial scarcity of natural gas and for fixing prices, official sources said.

A case has been registered against them and two others under the corruption prevention legislation, officials said.

The development comes a day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ordered the bureau to file criminal cases against Ambani, Moily, former petroleum minister Murli Deora and former director general of hydrocarbons VK Sibal.

At a press conference Tuesday, Kejriwal said he had received complaints from some "eminent persons" who spoke about alleged collusion between some ministers and industrialists to create artificial shortage of gas and hike prices unnecessarily.

The CM said the CAG report of May 2012 observed that in awarding the KG Basin gas contract to RIL, the government had given a windfall gain of Rs1.25 lakh crore to the company. The government also observed that in the past 10 years, two petroleum ministers — Mani Shankar Aiyar and S Jaipal Reddy who did not work according to the wishes of RIL — were shifted out of the ministry.

Kejriwal said, the decision to order a probe was taken after his government received a complaint filed by former cabinet secretary T S R Subramaniam, former Navy chief R H Tahiliani, former expenditure secretary E A S Sarma and Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal.

The complaint points out that gas prices would be doubled from April 1st due to the alleged "active collusion" between RIL and some central ministers. In case this price hike is allowed, it would have a cascading effect on transport, domestic gas and electricity prices, thus affecting the common man.

Kejriwal claimed the impact of the hike would cost the country a minimum of Rs 54,500 crore every year, and in addition to this, he said, the central government had allowed RIL to make a future windfall profit of Rs 1.2 lakh crore by gold-plating its project.

Moily has rubbished the allegation.

"We should sympathise with his (Kejriwal's) ignorance. He does not know how the government runs. Norms are followed. There is a system in fixing prices," the minister had said.

Reliance Industries too said the allegations were misplaced.

The company said Kejriwal's decision was "shocking" and termed the complaint and the allegations, on the basis of which the Delhi government has taken such action, as "completely baseless and devoid of any merit or substance whatsoever".

A Congress spokesperson said the party was not against any kind of inquiry but it must be within the constitutional jurisdiction and not based on political vendetta.

The Congress has already ruled out Moily's resignation.

FIR shakes up corporate world

The Delhi CM's move has shaken up the corporate world. Business analysts say such a move may benefit AAP politically, to an extent, but that it will also negatively impact gas exploration and production activity.

Coming on the eve of general elections, the Congress has already ridiculed Kejriwal's intentions while labelling him a "shoot and scoot" cowboy. The Delhi CM, however, remains nonplussed. He said the ACB will register an FIR without conducting a preliminary inquiry as the Delhi government does not think it was mandatory.

Kejriwal said the natural gas extraction cost will increase from April 1, which will hurt the common man. He has sought action against the quartet under section 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998. "The hike will increase the hardships of the people of Delhi and could also lead to non-availability of natural gas in the capital. Therefore, a thorough and impartial probe by the ACB is important," Kejriwal said. Agencies

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