BY SUJAY MEHDUDIA
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily is stalling arbitration proceedings against the Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) seeking to recover a penalty of $1 billion from the firm for violating contractual obligations in gas extraction in the Krishna-Godavari basin, says CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta.
Mr. Moily is going against the recommendations of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that the Mukesh Ambani-owned RIL should surrender a part of the gas block allotted to it and pay additional penalties, charged Mr. Dasgupta.
Mr. Dasgupta told reporters here that he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking immediate attention to the issue and an inquiry into the whole matter. “It was RIL which opted for arbitration after a $1 billion penalty was imposed on them on the advice of the Solicitor General. But after Jaipal Reddy’s departure from the ministry, every effort is being made to condone the criminality and no effort has been made to recover the penalty or impose new penalties for the failure of RIL to not only live up to the promised production but also for not doing enough to complete the works programme submitted by it despite reminders by the DGH,” Mr. Dasgupta alleged.
Mr. Dasgupta said that the DGH had recommended that 86 per cent area of the KG basin block of RIL D6 should be surrendered by the contractor. The CAG had also made similar remarks. However, Mr. Moily has not only sought to defy the CAG recommendations but is also openly talking about going against the report of the DGH on the issue. “Every effort is being made to sabotage the arbitration process and officials are being pressurised to write a note on the uselessness of such proceedings. These need to be looked into thoroughly and a judicial inquiry should be instituted to bring out the truth before the people,” he added.
He said the $1 billion penalty was imposed on the principle that if capital investments have been made for a certain level of production and that level is not being met, then the cost recovery should also be proportionately reduced. “By the same principle, the Ministry should disallow expenditure [recover penalty] of $4.17 billion for shortfall of 55 mmscmd [million standard cubic feet per day] in 2012-13 against the approved production level. If the current production levels are any indication, this penalty is likely to touch $3 billion in the current year. No notice for restricting cost recovery based on the falling production of 2012-13 and the current year has been served on the RIL,” he charged.
However, since Mr. Moily took over, nothing has been done to recover the penalty. He said the RIL has already recovered the $5.5 billion investment made by it in the KG D6 block and it is the government that stands to lose $1 billion by not proceeding with the arbitration.
When contacted by The Hindu, the petroleum ministry refused to comment on the issue.