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Pranab holds meeting with Petroleum, Law Ministers

New Delhi: Amid a bitter public wrangling between the Petroleum Ministry and industrialist Anil Ambani over the gas dispute, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday held a meeting with Petroleum and Law Ministers here.

Neither Petroleum Minister Murli Deora nor Law Minister Veerappa Moily was willing to comment on the 70-minute discussion, which incidentally was held after Mr. Ambani accused the Petroleum Ministry of colluding with Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), which he alleged wanted to make a super profit of Rs 50,000 crore.

The Ministry, on the other hand, said national assets (gas) could not be appropriated through a private family agreement.

It is understood that the meeting, where Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran and the Petroleum and Law Secretaries were also present, dealt with developments relating to the Ministry’s petition in the Supreme Court seeking annulment of a gas supply deal between the Mukesh Ambani-led RIL and Mr. Anil Ambani’s group firm, Reliance Natural Resources limited (RNRL), based on a family settlement.

Sources in the know said the participants were unanimous that the Ministry’s petition was the right move.

The meeting was held in the backdrop of the continuing legal battle between the Ambani brothers over supply of gas at $2.34 mmBtu, a price questioned by the Ministry.

Mr. Deora refused to comment on Mr. Anil Ambani’s comments, saying the matter was sub judice. Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey also refused to join issue with Mr. Anil Ambani.

It is understood that the meeting decided that the government’s view be expressed only in the court during the hearing on the petition, the admissibility of which would be considered on September 1.

Earlier in the day, government counsel Mohan Parasaran, after a meeting with Mr. Pandey, said: “The government is not partisan. We have been seeking to protect the public interest.

“We can’t be answering questions he [Anil Ambani] raises. He is a private individual. He is free to make whatever comments he likes. The government has its own limitations.”

Anil assails Ministry

Mr. Anil Ambani said the Petroleum Ministry could take back gasfields from RIL if it seriously believed that the family MoU violated its sovereign rights.

In a scathing attack on the Ministry, he said: “I’m sure all private companies in India wish that if they make commercial decisions, they wish to get out of, they too had a saviour to help bail them out as in the case of RIL,” which he alleged was seeking a super profit of Rs 50,000 crore. — PTI

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