Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee is understood to have given a favourable opinion on divestment of oil public sector units, thus paving the way for the privatisation of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, which were acquired and nationalised in the 1970s through acts of Parliament.
The opinion of the attorney-general is 'well considered, careful and guarded' and the government need not go to Parliament for amendment or repeal of the concerned acts prior to privatisation of the two oil PSUs, sources said on Monday.
Now the Cabinet Committee on Divestment is likely to meet by the end of the month for considering various issues relating to privatisation of HPCL through strategic sale of equity and BPCL through a public offer.
Earlier in the day, Sorabjee had written a letter to Divestment Secretary Pradeep Baijal seeking to know if any notification under section 620 of the Companies Act had been issued in relation to HPCL and BPCL.
Even as Baijal sought the information from the petroleum ministry, which relates to whether or not the government had given certain exemptions to the two oil PSUs, Sorabjee gave his opinion in a sealed cover to the divestment secretary, who in turn informed Divestment Minister Arun Shourie.
The attorney-general's opinion assumes importance in the wake of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement on Monday morning that divestment is an irreversible process and there are no fundamental differences within the National Democratic Alliance on this.
According to the sources, the petroleum ministry had not yet responded to Baijal's query.
The sources said that the attorney-general is understood to have taken into account the relevant acts, which do not specifically provide for the government to take permission prior to the sale of equity unlike the coal or bank nationalisation acts.
A decision can be taken as per the Companies Act for dilution or change of equity structure, as in the case of Maruti Udyog, the sources added.