CBI officials don’t see eye to eyeon prosecution in KG basin case

Sharp differences have emerged within the Central Bureau of Investigation over prosecution of the former Director-General of Hydrocarbons, V.K. Sibal, and officials of the Reliance Industries Limited and Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) on allegations of undue favour shown to RIL in KG basin D6 block and causing loss to the exchequer.

A team led by Joint Director Praveen Ranjan has recommended registration of a regular case under Section 120-B, read with Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, and read with Section 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Mr. Sibal, and DGH, RIL officials for showing undue favour to RIL on non-levying of liquidity damages and irregular permission to move to Phase II without completion of the minimum works programme under Phase1.

However, Special Director V.K. Gupta, a 1974 Gujarat cadre officer, has raised doubts over the officials’ criminality on account of the civil nature of the matter and as relaxations were given with the approval of the Ministry, which itself being the contracting party with the private operators, was competent to do so.

Joint Director AC (HQ) Prabodh Kumar, in a June 8 letter to P.K. Mishra, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, stated: “There are altogether six allegations in this PE [preliminary enquiry] against Mr. Sibal and others. During enquiry a number of allegations levelled could not be substantiated. Mr. Sibal had been alleging [that] the Ministry of Forests and Environment is responsible for delays in giving clearances for exploration and development projects, but on the contract, the production companies, in collusion with Mr. Sibal, were deliberately delaying the work.”

The CBI enquiry has revealed that extensions were provided by the DGH officials to RIL in different phases of the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) awarded to the firm for exploratory drilling in the block KG-DWN-98/1, and charges and penalties were not imposed in strict adherence to the terms of the contract. It is pertinent to mention that block KG-DWN-98/1 was awarded to the joint venture comprising RIL and Niko Resources during the first round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-1) on June 7, 2000 for seven years comprising three phases.

“On the basis of the enquiry, a difference of opinion has emerged regarding conversion of the PE. While the enquiry officer and supervisory/executive officers up to the Joint Director have recommended registration of a regular case, Special Director Mr. Gupta has expressed doubts over it. The Director of Prosecution [DOP] has endorsed the recommendation for conversion of PE into regular case [RC]. The Special Director has advised referring the matter to the Attorney-General for his opinion and CBI Director A.P. Singh has agreed with this suggestion,” says the letter.

“In view of the facts and evidence, the Attorney-General may be requested to record his considered opinion on the issue, as also any relevant law points that will be helpful in the CBI for inquiry/investigation of such matters which involve intricate matters, including discretion of the contracting parties in complaint arising out of non-adherence to the terms of a civil contract,” the letter concludes.

However, CBI Joint Director Binita Thakur, who is also looking after public relations of the agency, did not respond to repeated telephone calls made by The Hindu.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 1:53:52 AM |

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