Today's Paper

Shourie meets Advani on disinvestment

NEW DELHI SEPT. 26. After two days of consultations on what to do next on the disinvestment issue, it seems the Government is yet to arrive at any firm conclusion. Torn between two opinions, for and against seeking a judicial review of the Supreme Court judgment, which had virtually stopped the disinvestment of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, the Government is yet to finalise its strategy on restarting the disinvestment process.

A Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment is scheduled to meet soon after the Prime Minister's return from abroad though.

One section in the Government is in favour of approaching the Supreme Court on whether it could go ahead with the disinvestment of other public sector companies. The court judgment directed the Government not to proceed with disinvestment of the two oil majors without approaching Parliament, but those favouring a judicial review feel that there were larger issues involved and need to be be clarified by the apex court

However, the other view is that there is no point in approaching the Supreme Court, which may only reiterate its earlier judgement — no disinvestment of companies created through Acts of Parliament without getting Parliamentary approval.

The divergent views were conveyed to the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, when the Disinvestment and Communications Minister, Arun Shourie, called on him today. Other observations made by the Supreme Court in the order, such as the need to have a privatisation law to inject transparency into the disinvestment process were also reportedly discussed. Sources said that during the 30-minute meeting, Mr. Advani was apprised of the problematic issues in the telecom sector and the response to Mr. Shourie's efforts to solicit foreign investment during his recent visit to Germany. This was the first meeting between the two after the Supreme Court order, which was delivered when Mr. Shourie and the other key player in the disinvestment process, the Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, were abroad.

The meeting comes after a more extensive round of discussions on Thursday between Mr. Shourie and Mr. Jaitley in which the two divergent approaches were reportedly discussed. Sources, however, suggest that contrary to the impression given earlier, the Disinvestment Ministry is yet to submit a formal paper on the various options to restart the privatisation process.

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