The Delhi High Court on Thursday heard Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Central Government in the plea filed against Vedanta seeking clearance of dues of Rs 3,686 crore amid renewal of a contract for Rajasthan oil block.
A divisional bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard the arguments on behalf of the Central Government at length and has listed the matter tomorrow for the arguments of Vedanta.
The petition has been filed by Central Government for recovering and securing dues from Vedanta arisen due to the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) between the Centre and the company in connection to the oil block in Barmer, Rajasthan, the 25 years of PSC has expired and the company is seeking an extension of contract for 10 years.
“Government comes into several contracts and the contracts are private contracts in nature, there are few contracts entered into by UOI as a sovereign for the constitutional executive functions. The present contract is a Production Sharing Contract for petroleum and gases.”
The government holds interest for and on behalf of people of India and the government expects to grab maximum interest as per law. For the initial 25 years, there was no dispute. The petitioner sought extension for the same. The present petition in which the impugned Order is passed sought directions to extend the term of PSC on the same terms, Mehta added.
Mehta informed the bench,
“Government was already contemplating an pan India policy over the same issue, for the entire contracts in the country, for which, after consultation with all the stakeholders the government came up with it dealing with all the contracts existing in 2017 and was a retroactive policy.”
Mehta argued that the policy says there will be an increase in government share in case of an extension, however, you have a choice to agree to it and if the petitioner have any problem the same can be canvassed in accordance with law, and cannot be canvassed in a writ petition.
“Petroleum and its exploitation is the government’s obligation, it is not a subject of my power it is subject of my constitutional obligation,”
Concluding the arguments, Mehta submitted, “We have a policy, and it is an interim order, the final order cannot be processed over an interim order. This deserves to be set aside.”
The counsel appearing for the respondent submitted that Senior Advocate Harish Salve is appearing in another matter and sought a short accommodation.
However, the Chief Justice kept the matter for hearing respondents tomorrow stating,
“We are also having virtual and physical mixture also, let us put for tomorrow, let us use those cameras and screens on you.”
The bench has listed the matter for further hearing on January 29.