The reconstituted Empowered Group of Ministers on natural gas and allocation will now be headed by Defence Minister, A.K. Antony and the first agenda would be to take a decision on demand by Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for gas price revision before the 2014 deadline.
The reconstitution of EGoM was necessitated due to the departure of Pranab Mukherjee from the government. Mr. Antony previously was not part of the EGoM and has been inducted after Mr. Mukherjee's exit. The Finance Ministry will now be represented by Minister of State for Finance, Namo Narain Meena on the EGoM. Besides Mr. Antony and Mr. Meena, the EGoM includes Petroleum Minister, Jaipal Reddy, Power Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Fertiliser and Chemicals Minister, M.K. Alagiri, Law and Justice Minister, Salman Khurshid and Planning Commission deputy chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
A top Petroleum Ministry official said that RIL has demanded a market price of KG-D6 gas instead of $4.205 per million British thermal unit rate fixed for five years ending March 31, 2014. "The EGoM at its last meeting in February had directed us to seek an opinion of the Attorney General, G.E. Vahanvati if prices can be revised before the 5-year tenure fixed by the government. We have received the opinion of AG on the price of RIL gas and it will now be put up before EGoM for a decision,’’ he added.
Mr. Vahanvati has opined that revision of prices is advisable or not is a matter which the EGoM would have to determine not as a matter of law, but as a matter of policy.
However, the official indicated that the government has no intention to recommend a change in price before the April, 2014 deadline.