Gas price hike: SC issues notices to government, RIL

The Supreme today issued notices to the central government and Reliance Industries Ltd on the controversial decision to double the price of natural gas produced in the country from $4.2 to $ 8.4 million British thermal units (mmBtu) beginning 1 April 2014.

The gas pricing issue came under the apex court's scrutiny when it took up a public interest litigation filed by CPI leader and member of Parliament Gurudas Dasgupta seeking review of the recent government decision favouring Reliance Industries.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam today agreed to examine the matter and issued notices to the two parties involved in the case.

In his PIL, Dasgupta has contended that the government has taken the decision to hike natural gas prices without taking into consideration its disastrous economic consequences, especially its effects on power and fertiliser industries.

"Petroleum minister took the decision to hike gas prices overriding opposition by five other ministers of cabinet rank," the petition points out.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that the petroleum minister has also overruled the opinion of senior officials of the ministry and his predecessor.

The proposed gas price of $8.4 per mmBtu will be subject to further review every three months and will apply to all gas producers in the country, including state-owned firms like ONGC, Oil India Ltd as also private producers like RIL.

The petition also sought the enforcement of the clause that the government should reclaim 80 per cent of the KG basin gas field that RIL has failed to utilise.

Senior counsel Harish Salve accepted the notice on behalf of Reliance.

The notices are returnable in four weeks and the matter is listed for hearing on 6 September.

Dasgupta, who was present during the hearing, said he was forced to move the court as the prime minister failed to take any action on his complaint.