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Supreme Court seeks response from Centre, RIL on gas pricing

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The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and Reliance Industries (RIL) on a public interest litigation (PIL) against the increase in natural gas price, filed by Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta and former Union power secretary E A S Sarma.

A bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam asked the Centre and RIL to respond within four weeks. The next hearing is scheduled on September 6. The central government, petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily, the petroleum ministry, RIL, Niko Resources and BP are among the respondents in the PIL.

“The bench has asked us why Moily is included in the list. To which, we responded there are charges levelled against him which need to be addressed,” Dasgupta’s counsel Colin Gonsalves told Business Standard. The PIL prayed for a stay on the decision to increase the price of domestic natural gas from $4.2 per million British thermal unit (mBtu) to $8.4 a mBtu, applicable from April 2014.

The PIL has also sought the apex court’s intervention in the appointment of a presiding arbitrator for a panel looking into RIL’s right to recover its investment in the KG-D6 block from gas sales, thereby completing the process within six months.

Dasgupta had alleged that the petroleum ministry was sitting on a penalty of $1 billion imposed on RIL in FY12 and also failed to implement relinquishment of 86 per cent of the KG-D6 block area held by RIL.


Conspiracy behind move to double gas price: PIL

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre, RIL and petroleum minister Veerappa Moily and sought their replies on a PIL which alleges conspiracy in the government's decision to double the price of natural gas from April 2014.

Before seeking replies from the respondents within four weeks, a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi sought clarifications from Colin Gonsalves — counsel of petitioners MP Gurudas Dasgupta and ex-power secretary E A S Sarma — and heard RIL counsel Harish Salve.

To Salve's preliminary objections, the bench said, "We cannot brush aside the assertions of an MP at the preliminary stage. You (respondents) file your replies and we will consider it." It fixed hearing on the PIL for September 5.

The petitioners alleged that KG basin gas exploring contractors, RIL and NIKO Resources, entered into a conspiracy with the Centre "to provide exorbitant, unreasonable and excessive profits to the contractors, which will bankrupt the exchequer and severely affect the Indian economy".

They sought quashing of the gas price hike and requested the court to direct the government to ensure that henceforth "the price of domestically produced gas is fixed in rupees and not dollars or any other currency".

"Appoint a court commission comprising independent and fearless officers and experts having expertise in the area of this dispute to inquire into the real cost of gas at the well-head in the KG basin and also into the capacity of the basin itself and related issues raised in the petition," they said.

Dasgupta and Sarma also alleged that certain benefits were being granted to the contractors by government for mala fide and collateral gain which would increase the subsidy burden enormously. They also said the gas price hike would "enormously impact" food and energy security resulting in higher prices of fertilizers, food products and cooking gas affecting the poor.


Justice Ganguly replies to government posers on Pakistan trip

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KOLKATA: A state government questioning the human rights commission (HRC) chief, who enjoys pay parity with a high court's chief justice, about his leave of absence is unheard of. But that's the uncommon situation Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly found himself in earlier this week when the Mamata Banerjee government shot off a letter seeking clarifications about his recent trip to Pakistan.

The West Bengal HRC chief, who visited Karachi in the first week of June to attend a two-day seminar, sent his reply to home secretary Basudeb Banerjee on Friday. The seminar on June 4 and 5 was jointly organized by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and the Hamdard School of Law in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network. Besides Justice Ganguly, others invited from India as speakers were lawyers Prashant Bhushan, Mukul Sinha and Colin Gonsalves. Justice Ganguly returned to the city on June 6 and joined office from June 7.

Since he took charge in April 2012, the WBHRC has proactively taken up cases ranging from the cartoon controversy to the Kamduni rape-murder in which the government has been embarrassed. WBHRC sources felt the letter could be a sequel to that.

The home secretary's letter, which was sent on Monday, "requested" Justice Ganguly to answer five questions about his trip: whether it was official or private, what its purpose was, who funded it, whether there was any FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) violation and if prior permission was taken from the governor.


Assault in Jails: Inform Us on Steps Taken, SC to Centre

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Incidents of attack on foreign prisoners have "international ramifications", Supreme Court today said asking the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government to apprise it of steps to ensure that assaults similar to the one on Pakistani inmate Sanaullah Ranjay do not recur.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and S J Mukhopadhya also voiced displeasure over the pace of progress in investigation into the death of Ranjay at Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu.

"Such incidents have international ramifications. The Government has to tell us that about the certain steps that have been taken and are being contemplated to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future," the court said and asked the Centre and the state government to file affidavits.

"Look, such incidents have happened in Pakistan and in India. In so far as Pakistan is concerned, we have no control and so far as India is concerned, we have got the control. You must tell us about the steps taken to ensure that such incidents do not happen again," it said.

The court, after perusing the affidavit filed by Jammu and Kashmir government, expressed unhappiness there was "not a single word" about investigation into Ranjay's death though 72 days had passed since the incident.

"You must have held some preliminary inquiry. What are the findings. This (affidavit) is nothing as it does not give as to what had happened? How it happened? It does not even say the date on which the FIR was lodged.


SC notice on proposed bodies for plaints against cops

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The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central and and state governments on a petition seeking direction to set up Police Complaint Authorities (PCA) to deal with public complaints related to law enforcers.

The authorities comprising competent and independent people were mandated by the apex court by its 2006 verdict related to police reforms.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves pointed to the court the "poor state of the implementation of the directions of the apex court for pushing police reforms".

The petition was filed by Sarfraj Mulla, Kavesh V. Gosavi, Abdul Allbaksh Gaffar Shirogod and Khalil Tannub Mohammed, who were all allegedly ill-treated by Goa Police, urging the court to direct all states and union territories to set up a PCA each and make it functional within three months.

The petitioners urged the court to direct the central government to frame model rules to be adopted by states and union territories on establishing the proposed complaint authorities.

They alleged that they were "tortured by the police, stripped naked, racially abused and maliciously prosecuted" by Goa Police.

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HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.