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‘Gas is scarce natural resource and govt has full control over it’

business Updated: Nov 17, 2009 23:51 IST
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The ministry of petroleum and natural gas opened its argument before the Supreme Court on the dispute between the Ambani brothers over pricing of gas amid stiff opposition by Anil Ambani owned Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL).

RNRL’s senior counsel Ram Jethmalani said he had strong objection to the ministry contesting the case as a party.

When he sought a clarification from ministry counsel additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, the latter said the government was a contesting party as it had full control over gas — a valuable natural resource.

Jethmalani shot back: “If he wants to assist the court as an intervener, I have no objections at all. But if wants to become a party and place some more documents, we have strong objections to it.”

He further informed the bench headed by Chief Justice KG. Balakrishnan that if the court entertained ministry’s petition against Bombay High Court judgment, RNRL would exercise its right to cross-examine it. The senior counsel claimed the ministry had “run away” from Bombay High Court when it faced the prospect of cross-examination by RNRL.

After Jethmalani permitted the ministry’s counsel to have “his full say,” Parasaran began its arguments stating that gas was “scarce natural resource and national asset.” “Government has full control over it,” the ASG argued.

He said Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) was merely a contractor and it could not sell gas to anybody without government approval. Parasaran added the government did not permit distribution of gas between two private parties.

Earlier, RIL closed its argument. Its counsel Rohington Nariman told the court that it could not impose Ambani family business reorganisation pact on its shareholders.

“The court has to act as an umpire rather than as a bowler or fielder. It only has a supervisor role,” he said.