IT dept carrying out probe on gas row: Govt tells SC

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that an investigation was being carried out by Income Tax department into an alleged money laundering issue raised during hearing of pleas, seeking cancellation of Reliance Industries Ltd’s contract for exploration of oil and gas from Krishna-Godavari basin.

Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who was making submission before a bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan, said the probe by Central Board of Direct Taxes was still under progress.

The bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph, during the last hearing, had said it wanted to know from the government about the alleged money laundering issue raised during the hearing.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, Common Cause, had read out the letter by the Indian High Commission in Singapore to the Centre relating to an investigation of investment of Rs 6,500 crores from a ‘one-room defunct’ company in Singapore. He had claimed the High Commission had stated that Rs 6,530 crores have come into India from Bio Metrix Marketing Ltd, a one-room company in Singapore that does not do any business.

It was contended by him that it was a company with no assets, no equity and did not file income tax returns in Singapore claiming to be a small firm. Parasaran, who commenced his arguments on Tuesday, said the allegations of collusion between the government and RIL were ‘wholly unfounded’.

He submitted that there was a dispute between the government and RIL over fall in output and cost recovery from KG basin for which the apex court had on Monday appointed an international arbitrator as the third member in the arbitration panel.

‘How can dispute between two parties going on under arbitration be raised and entertained in a PIL (public interest litigation),’ Parasaran said while referring to the issues raised in the petition filed by CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta.

However, the bench said, ‘What prevents this court from stopping the arbitration if the allegation of collusion (between government and RIL) are found true? Jurisprudentially I don’t think there is anything that prevents us.’

Among the questions, the bench wanted to know from the Centre about the total cost incurred by the RIL in KG-D6 gas fields and recoveries made for the same.

The court also sought response about the actions taken against RIL for not meeting obligations on quantity of gas production required under the production sharing contract with the government.
‘Have you taken any action or not?’ the court asked. The court was informed that the government was under arbitration on the issue.
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