THE Bombay High Court has allowed Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries (RIL) to change its written submissions in the legal battle with state-run NTPC. A division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice A M Khanwilkar, however, stayed this order for four weeks giving time to NTPC to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court has also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on Reliance Industries for seeking the amendment.
Reliance Industries sought to make the amendment to include the decision of an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on the price and utilisation policy for gas from the KG Basin.
A single judge of the High Court had allowed Reliance Industries to amend its submissions and include the EGoM stand on the issue. NTPC, however, appealed against the order on the ground that the EGoM decision was not relevant to the case.
“...We are of the view that there is sufficient ground that the applicant (Reliance Industries) could not bring the facts on record despite exercise of due diligence as much as practically as all the events occurred subsequent to filing the written statement,” the court said in its judgement.
The main dispute between NTPC and Reliance Industries goes back to 2005 and pertains to the validity of a gas supply-purchase agreement, which according to Reliance Industries’ version of events, never took the shape of a final contract be cause there was a disagreement over some clauses.
NTPC’s case is that Reliance Industries agreed to supply gas to it from its new finds in the KG basin, and the agreement was final. The current ruling is procedural and has no direct bearing on the eventual outcome. NTPC wants the court to direct RIL to honour the contract.
When Reliance Industries sought to include the EGoM decision in its written submission, NTPC argued that this had no relation on the ongoing legal battle as the minutes of the meeting clearly state that the government decision was subject to court rulings in the RIL-NTPC and the RIL-RNRL cases.
Besides, Reliance Industries knew about the EGoM decision before the trial started and at this late stage legal provisions do not allow such an amendment, NTPC’s counsel DD Madon had argued.
In response, Reliance Industries’ counsel Milind Sathe contended that RIL’s marketing rights were subject to the EGoM decision and this had a bearing on the case. If the EGoM decision was included as part of its written argument, it did not affect NTPC’s rights and the latter could contest Reliance Industries’ submission in court.
THE CASE HISTORY
The main dispute goes back to 2005 and pertains to the validity of a gas supply-purchase deal.
RIL version of events, says the ‘deal’ never took shape of a final contract because there was disagreement over some clauses.
NTPC’s case is RIL had agreed to supply gas and it was final.
Now, RIL has sought to include an EGoM decision in its written submission, which NTPC says is not relevant to the case.
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