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October 14, 1997


Notices to Centre, CAG, Enron, Reliance on Panna-Mukta oilfield

The Delhi high court on Tuesday issued notices to Reliance Industries Limited, the American multinational Enron, the central government, and Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on a public interest petition challenging the awarding of the Panna-Mukta oilfield contract in Maharashtra to the RIL-Enron private joint venture.

A division bench consisting of Chief Justice Ajay Prakash Misra and Justice N G Nandi issued the notices returnable within three weeks on the petition of environmental and legal activist Dr B L Wadehra.

The bench also combined Wadehra's petition with that of the Centre of Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), on which notices have already been issued, and fixed November 20 as the next date of hearing on the two petitions.

Hearing the CPIL petition, the judges directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to file before the court the statement of the four officials of the CBI and the CBI crime branch of Bombay who are alleged to have misplaced a register, containing notes of CBI Superintendent of Police V P Singh, who was probing the case and had pointed out irregularities in the multimillion deal.

The bench asked CBI counsel R S Jamuar whether the investigating agency had recorded the statement of the four officials, as per its direction of the last hearing. The CBI counsel submitted that the statements have been recorded and will be produced before the court on the next date of hearing.

Counsel for CPIL Prashant Bhushan asked how was it that the CBI did not maintain the register of file movement. ''If files are going to disappear like this, no investigation into criminal cases can be carried out.''

Two years have elapsed and still a regular case has not been registered in the matter by the CBI, Bhushan said.

The CBI counsel submitted that until a cognisable offence is perceived in a case, no regular case is registered. The preliminary enquiry is as good as a regular case as the manner of investigation is the same as is done in the case of a regular one, he said.

The bench gave one week time to the petitioner to file reply to the government's affidavit on the issue.

Bhushan claimed that the statement of former petroleum minister Satish Sharma's secretary B N Safaya that Reliance had "bribed" the minister for clearing the deal was sufficient to initiate a criminal enquiry into the matter.


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