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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No info on conflict of interest of members of gas pricing EGOM

The Prime Minister's Office does not have any information whether Cabinet Ministers, who were part of Empowered Group of Ministers to decide on the price of gas from Godavari basin declared their conflict of interest with Reliance Industries Limited or the late Dhirubhai Ambani.

The Prime Minister's Office, in reply to an RTI query, has said that it has no information whether any disclosures regarding the same were made to the Prime Minister by the ministers either at the time of taking of oath or at the time of being appointed to the Empowered Group of Ministers to decide on the price of gas from Godavari basin.

Unlike in judiciary where in case of any conflict of interest with either party in litigation judges generally refuse to hear the case, is it not mandatory for the ministers to declare their conflict of interests even if they are part of EGOM whose decisions may "economically benefit a corporate group", the questioner wanted to know.

Arun Agrawal, author of a book that refers to controversies surrounding the Reliance group -- had asked from the PMO whether it was mandatory for the Ministers to disclose conflict of interest before joining EGOM, which may economically benefit a corporate.

The PMO answered "no".

In his query, Agrawal also asked whether any members of EGOM were in conflict of interest in respect of having past dealings with RIL or Dhirubhai Ambani or his sons, relatives, close friends in respect of trade, industry, legal briefs or employment of their wards at any time in their life.

This part of the query was first forwarded to the Cabinet Secretariat by PMO and later landed at Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which gave details of composition of the EGOM but said it has no information about the query.

In its reply dated December 8, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas said,"This division is not having information regarding who were in conflict of interest in respect of having past financial dealings with RIL, or Dhirubhai Ambani or employment of their wards at any time in their life."

The high voltage legal battle to decide on the price of gas discovered in Godavari-Kaveri Basin by Reliance Industries Limited is going on in the Supreme Court.

The case pertains to Anil Ambani group firm RNRL's demand that it be supplied natural gas from RIL's KG-D6 gas fields at a price of $2.34 per mmBtu agreed in a 2005 family MoU.

Mukesh Ambani led RIL contends that it cannot do so as the rate approved by the government, after the recommendation of empowered group of ministers, for the gas was $4.2 per mmBtu and selling fuel below that price would not yield profits

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