State-run power utility NTPC and the oil ministry will file separate petitions in the Supreme Court on the ongoing legal battle over natural gas at $2.34 per unit from the Krishna-Godavari basin awarded to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries.
Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily and Power Secretary HS Brahma gave this information in separate remarks in New Delhi to reporters on Tuesday.
The decision on the petroleum ministry moving the apex court as a party to the legal dispute was taken at a meeting in New Delhi among the members of a high-powered ministerial panel on the matter set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The panel was formed to coordinate the government's position over two disputes - one over supplies to Reliance Natural Resources being heard in the Supreme Court, and the other over sale to NTPC being adjudicated in the Bombay High Court.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee heads the high-level panel, with Moily, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde as its members.
Top officials of these ministries also attended Tuesday's meeting.
The Anil Ambani group, which controls Reliance Natural Resources, welcomed Tuesday's development, saying it hoped that the government took legal steps to ensure NTPC received gas from Reliance Industries at $2.34 per unit for 17 years.
"This is the stand which we have sorted out," Moily told reporters in New Delhi after the meeting, adding: "Now the ball will be in the court of the Supreme Court." He also said this was the last meeting of the four-member ministerial panel.
When asked what the government's stand was, Moily said: "That you can see in the Supreme Court."
It was also clear on Tuesday that the government had accepted the advice of two top law officers of the government who asked NTPC to move the apex court at the earliest to secure its interests in the gas row with Reliance Industries.
"We will be filing our special leave petition within the next six-seven days," Power Secretary Brahma told reporters on the margins of a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi.
Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati and Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam had advised NTPC on the matter.
In June, the Bombay High Court asked Reliance Industries to supply 28 million units of gas from the KG fields to Reliance Natural Resources for 17 years at $2.34 per unit.
But Reliance Industries challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court, which heard the case July 20 and fixed Sep 1 as the next date of hearing. The court also asked all parties to file their replies on the government position on the matter by then.
The petroleum ministry has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court with the plea that Krishna-Godavari gas was national property, even as the Bombay High Court was hearing the dispute between NTPC and Reliance Industries.
Later, the Anil Ambani group said in a statement: "We will be delighted if the petroleum ministry and NTPC even now take effective legal steps to enforce NTPC's contractual right to receive 12 million cubic metres of gas per day from Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) for its Kawas and Gandhar projects, at a fixed price of $2.34 for a period of 17 years, thereby defeating RIL's malafide attempts to dishonour its binding legal commitments."