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SC rejects Maharashtra govt's plea to close petition on Enron-Dabhol power project deal

twitter-logoPTI | February 14, 2019 | Updated 20:02 IST

New Delhi, Feb 14 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday rejected the Maharashtra government's plea to close the case of alleged corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats and corporates in the Enron-Dabhol power project case. The USD 3 billion mega power project was set up in Maharashtra by US-based Enron and its associates Dabhol Power Corporation in 1996 after signing of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) in 1993. Dabhol Power Company (DPC), now known as Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd, a joint venture of NTPC Limited, GAIL and Government of Maharashtra was established in 2005 to take over and revive the assets of the defunct DPC. The apex Court had in 1997 admitted the petition of Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) challenging a Bombay High Court order upholding the PPA and issued notice to MSEB only on the role of government and its officials in the signing of the PPA. When the petition came up for hearing Thursday, the apex court was informed by the Maharashtra government about the developments that have taken place since the matter came up before the Bombay High Court in 1996. The state government had appointed a committee headed by IAS officer Madhav Godbole which in its report in April 10, 2001 suggested the setting of a judicial commission after giving its finding of alleged irregularities in the deal. Godbole committee also had four other members -- former Union economic affairs secretary E A S Sarma, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, then TERI chairman Rajendra Pachauri and Maharashtra government official Vinay Mohan Lal. The report, which was submitted to the Maharashtra government, had dealt with handling of the issues during the tenure of Sharad Pawar as the Chief Minister when he was in Congress Party, the 13-day BJP-led Union government which reworked the deal in 1996, Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray and his government in Maharashtra headed by Manohar Joshi. According to the suggestion of the Godbole Committee, a one-man enquiry commission headed by Justice S P Kurdukar, former apex court judge, was appointed. However, proceedings before the Justice Kurdukar Commission, was stayed in April 2003 as the Centre had filed a lawsuit against the Maharashtra Government which was later dismissed paving the way for the commission to go ahead with the proceedings, which never happened. After taking note of the facts and its various interim orders passed since 1997, a Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna refused to accept the plea of Maharashtra Government that the issue raised in the CITU's petition has become infructuous and needs to be closed since the project which has been renamed as Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd and is operational from 2006. "We are unable to agree with the view of the state government that the present petition has become infructuous and therefore its has to be dismissed as infructuous," the bench said and posted the hearing for March 13. It directed the Maharashtra government through its standing counsel Nishant Katneshwarkar to file an affidavit enumerating the proposed action likely to be taken by the competent authority. The bench directed that the state government would state clearly as to whether it would prefer the continuance of the Godbole Committee or would like to have the judicial commission. The apex court also asked the Maharashtra government to place before it the details of officials conversant with the matter. The Bench noted in its order the last information made available to the apex court on March 7, 2018 by the Centre that the Union of India was no longer interested in the Commission (headed by Justice Khurdukar) to continue. In that order, the apex court had also said "We would like to know the stand of the State of Maharashtra in this regard namely, whether they would like the Commission of Enquiry to be appointed or the Godbole Committee to continue and submit a report as mentioned by the Godbole Committee or the Justice Khurdukar Commission to continue or they would like the case to be argued on merits. In an earlier order, the apex court had said it was hearing the matter as a public interest litigation and as the principal issue arising for decision was to determine the question of accountability of the Maharashtra government and its officials. It had noted that during the pendency of the petition, "there have been several significant developments and subsequent events having far- reaching implications." A report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) dated April 1998, and report dated April 10, 2001 by Godbole Committee appointed by the Maharashtra in exercise of its executive power, are available it said, adding that the report of Godbole Committee and the relevant extracts from the report of CAG have been brought on the record of this case. PTI RKS SJK SA

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