Acting tough after having secured legal opinions from the Law Ministry and the Solicitor General of India, Petroleum Ministry on Friday indicated that the $8.48-billion Cairn-Vedanta deal would only be considered for approval if Cairn Energy sought government consent for all the properties and not selective ones.

Seeking to harden its stand on the issue and virtually rejecting Cairn Energy's stand, the Petroleum Ministry has maintained that U.K.-based Cairn Energy will have to file a revised application for formal transfer of control of all its 10 properties in the country.

Cairn's current application seeking government nod for the deal has left out the three producing properties, including the giant Rajasthan oilfields.

This was conveyed to the Cairn Energy management through an official letter this month. This could further delay the deal and push it into the first quarter of next year instead of the projected year-end deadline. “We wrote to Cairn Energy and Cairn India a few days ago reminding them of contractual requirement of seeking government consent in all the properties. We cannot consider their case unless they comply with this contractual requirement,'' according to Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan. Mr. Sundareshan said Cairn Energy's application for permission that left out all of its three producing properties including its mainstay 6.5 billion barrels Rajasthan block, was unacceptable and the company had to apply for all the blocks.

Mr. Sundareshan indicated that the delay on part of Cairn in seeking formal approval would lead to slippage in the Oil Ministry's previously stated year-end deadline for making up its mind on giving approval for the deal. A decision on the deal might now come as late as in February 2011.

The Law Ministry, in its legal opinion, held that the share sale is nothing but transfer of control of all 10 properties of Cairn India, necessitating government nod in all of them. The Solicitor General also held the same view when he was approached for advice by ONGC.