Modi govt limits investigative agency's powers in gas pricing case

Tags: News
The Delhi government's Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) does not have authority to probe graft allegations against former UPA ministers and others in relation to alleged irregularities in raising price of gas from RIL's KG6 basin, the prosecution told the Delhi High Court on Tuesday.

Appearing for the Delhi government and the ACB, senior advocate Vikas Singh told the court that such powers have been taken away from the ACB by a recent notification of the Central government.

"There is a July 23 notification as per which ACB will not have powers to probe (the matter). The notification takes away the jurisdiction of ACB to investigate central government employees in corruption cases. It rather confines (ACB) to employees of Delhi government only," Singh said.

The recent central government notification has amended the November 8, 1993 notification of the Lieutenant Governor, saying it shall be applicable to the officers and employees of that (Delhi) government only.

"This notification shall apply to the officers and employees of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi," the fresh notification reads.

The ACB, which has now sought time to file its fresh reply as well as to place the notification on record, had recently asserted that it was well within its right to lodge the First Information Report (FIR) against Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and others, including then Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily, for alleged irregularities in raising gas prices.

The FIR had been filed on the instructions of the Arvind Kejriwal, then chief minister of Delhi and head of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The CM’s order was based on a complaint moved by T S R Subramanian, former Cabinet Secretary of India; E A S Sarma, former power secretary; Admiral R H Tahiliani, former navy chief, and Kamini Jaiswal, Supreme Court lawyer.

On Tuesday, a bench of Justice V K Shali posted the matter for further hearing on October 16, by when ACB and Delhi government will have to file their fresh replies in view of the recent development.

RIL and others will have to file their responses to the replies of Delhi government and ACB before the next date of hearing.

Meanwhile, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the complainants, said that in view of a Supreme Court judgement, it can be inferred that ACB has "concurrent territorial jurisdiction to investigate corruption cases which take place within its domain".

Earlier, ACB had sought dismissal of RIL's plea for quashing of the FIR, saying that the plea that it (ACB) lacked the power to probe the matter was "absurd" and "misconceived".

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