ONGC takes RIL to court over 'stealing' of its Krishna-Godavari gas

The state-owned explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corp on Thursday filed a petition in the Delhi High Court alleging that Reliance Industries Ltd was drawing natural gas from an offshore block in the Bay of Bengal that ONGC controls – or in effect, that RIL is stealing ONGC's gas.

The petition alleges that Mukesh Ambani's RIL drew out a ''substantial'' volume from a block ONGC is developing, according to Neeraj Chaudhary, a lawyer representing ONGC. It is not clear yet what compensation ONGC is seeking.

The court asked for responses from RIL and the government, and will next hear the case on 29 May, a one-judge bench of Justice Manmohan said.

Reliance Industries said in a statement that it regards ONGC's claims as ''baseless'', and the company is ''constructively engaged'' with ONGC in sharing data.

The ONGC block is next to Reliance's, which going by preliminary explorations is supposed to hold the nation's biggest reserves of natural gas. The state-run explorer told the petroleum ministry last year that there is a possibility that the two fields are linked, and asked it to direct Reliance to share data. The company also sought the intervention of the regulator.

''However, ONGC was asked to resolve the issue independently with RIL, in the first instance,'' ONGC said in a statement on 5 March.

The allegation by the Indian state-run company comes after RIL and its minority partners BP Plc and Niko Resources Ltd issued an arbitration notice last week to the Indian government to implement a delayed gas-price increase.

Gas production from RIL's KG-D6 block has slumped to about 10 million cubic meters a day from more than 60 million in 2010.

Reliance says the reservoir has proved to be more difficult to exploit that it had expected.