Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) can't say it had no knowledge of the Ambani family pact between brothers Mukesh and Anil, which was brokered by their mother Kokilaben, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday.
"Mukesh Ambani had a copy of the MOU (memorandum of understanding, or the family business reorganisation pact)," asked the three-member apex court bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice P. Sathasivam.
"So you cannot say RIL did not know of the MOU," the bench observed, after hearing the reply of RIL counsel Harish Salve, while hearing the Krishna-Godavari gas supply and pricing dispute.
The bench made the observation amid RIL counsel's ongoing arguments that the family pact was "in private domain" and "not in the corporate domain" because of which it was not binding on his client company.
The dispute is over the supply of 28 million units of natural gas for 17 years at $2.34 per unit to Anil Ambani-led Reliance Natural Resources (RNRL) from the gas fields off the Andhra Pradesh coast, awarded to Mukesh Ambani-led RIL.
The price, tenure and quantity were all based on a family re-organisation pact in 2005, but RIL subsequently said it could only sell the gas for $4.20 per unit, as this was the price, the company claimed, that was fixed by the government.
Salve said the family pact also couldn't override the production-sharing contract between the company and the government, adding: "The gas belongs to the Government of India till the point of delivery."
He also wondered if it was unreasonable to have the government's nod on the matter.
The RIL counsel said the family pact envisaged gas supplies to RNRL on the same terms under which his client company was to supply natural gas from Krishna-Godavari fields to the state-run power utility NTPC.
This agreement between RIL and NTPC -- which called for gas supplies at $2.34 per unit -- had also resulted in a dispute, and is being adjudicated by the Bombay High Court.