Tuesday, October 4, 2022

SC notices to Centre, ONGC on Vedanta’s appeal on Barmer oilfield

The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Centre to an appeal by Vedanta Ltd against a Delhi High Court verdict which said...

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Centre to an appeal by Vedanta Ltd against a Delhi High Court verdict which said the government can demand 10 percent higher share in the profit from the oil produced from the Barmer oilfield for extending the production sharing contract (PSC) with the private firm for another 10 years.

A division bench of the high court had in its March 26, 2021 verdict, set aside the single judge order which had directed the Centre to extend till 2030 its PSC with Vedanta Ltd and ONGC to produce oil from the oilfield in Rajasthan.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Krishna Murari took note of the brief submissions of senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta Ltd, and issued notices to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Director General of Hydrocarbons and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Ltd.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, accepted the notice and sought four weeks for filing the response.

The bench took note of the submissions and fixed the appeal of Vedanta and co-appellant Cairn Energy Hydrocarbons Ltd for hearing in September.

Earlier, the Centre had moved an appeal before a division bench of the high court against the judgement of a single judge bench directing it to extend till 2030 its PSC with Vedanta Ltd and ONGC to produce oil from the Barmer oilfield.

The Centre’s appeal was allowed by the division bench of the high court against Vedanta which moved the apex court against it.

The division bench of high court had said the Centre can demand 10 percent higher share in the profit derived from oil produced by Vedanta from the Barmer oilfield to extend the production sharing contract (PSC) with the company for another 10 years.

It had said no embargo can be placed on the right of the government to extend the contract on terms which are at variance with the initial terms of the PSC “so long as they are in public interest and subserve the purpose of maximising revenue generation”.

The high court had also said that Vedanta does not have the right to demand extension of the PSC on unilateral terms that suit its interest, overlooking the interest of the State, which is a trustee of the natural resources under a Constitutional mandate.

Prior to this, the single judge bench of the high court had held that Vedanta was entitled to extension of its contract, which was to expire in 2020, for a further period of 10 years on the same terms and agreements when it was first entered into in 1995.

Initially, Vedanta had moved the high court after its request to the government in 2009 to extend the PSC did not elicit any response. It had claimed that the delay by the government in making a decision was preventing it from infusing further investment of over Rs 30,000 crore in the project.

In its plea before the single judge, Vedanta had said the estimated recoverable assets in the block were about 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, of which 466 million barrels are expected to be recovered beyond current PSC period until 2030.

Besides, it was also producing natural gas from the block and supplying it to government companies, the Anil Agarwal- promoted firm had claimed.

(With PTI inputs)

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