The Delhi High Court today refrained from granting an interim stay on the probe into an FIR against RIL and others, including two former UPA ministers, for alleged irregularities in raising the price of gas from the KG-6 basin.
The court said enough of protection has already been granted in the matter following a high court order that no coercive steps should be taken.
The high court was hearing a plea of the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) seeking a stay on the probe on the ground that the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi government had recently issued summons to its three senior officials even though the agency did not do anything since 2015.
Besides the company, erstwhile UPA ministers M Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora (since dead), RIL’s chairman Mukesh Ambani, former director general of hydrocarbons V K Sibal and other unidentified persons are named in the ACB’s FIR.
On the issue of ACB’s jurisdiction to probe such matters, Justice A K Chawla said it was being heard by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court and it would be appropriate to hear this case after the apex court’s decision as it would have a bearing on it.
“We can wait for some time. The orders to protect your interest are already there. No coercive steps are to be taken is already said in the earlier order,” the high court said.
It then granted time to Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for RIL, to seek instructions on whether they wished to press for the stay application or wait for the top court verdict and listed the matter on December 6.
During the hearing, the senior counsel referred to the August 4, 2016 judgement of a division bench of the high court which had held that the powers of the ACB were limited to probing graft cases in various departments under the administrative authority of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) but not extending to central government employees.
The Delhi government, in its reply filed through its standing counsel Ramesh Singh, opposed the stay application saying the high court had earlier granted them relief that no coercive step would be taken by the ACB. Besides, pressing for the same prayer would be an abuse of the legal process.
It said if the stay was granted, it would also hamper the probe of other cases relating to central government employees. It also said the matter was pending before the apex court.
The ACB had issued summons to three RIL officials in September and November asking them to join the investigation.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had earlier asked the ACB to lodge an FIR in the matter.
The FIR was lodged by the ACB on a complaint sent to the chief minister by former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, former secretary E A S Sarma, former navy chief R H Tahiliani and advocate Kamini Jaiswal.
The UPA-II government had moved the court for quashing of the FIR, saying the ACB of the Delhi government had “no powers or jurisdiction to investigate” complaints against the Union government’s decision to fix prices of natural gas.
The FIR was lodged under sections for cheating and criminal conspiracy of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. All the accused have denied the allegations.
The complaint had alleged that the impact of gas price rise would cost the country a minimum of Rs 54,500 crore per year at the dollar price then.
RIL had earlier told the high court that an FIR against it in the matter should be quashed as the AAP government was “never entitled” to lodge an FIR against it.
RIL’s counsel had said that the division bench verdict was in the company’s favour and even the Supreme Court had not yet stayed the Delhi High Court’s August 2016 decision. Read more
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