NEW DELHI: Aam Aadmi Party has now alleged that oil minister Veerappa Moily had tried to benefit the Essar Group by pushing a cabinet note for allotting it oil and gas fields located in the western offshore after the model code of conduct had been implemented. It also claimed that the deal could have resulted in a potential loss of Rs 52,000 crore to the national exchequer.
Senior party member Prashant Bhushan said that a consortium of Essar Oil and Premier Oil Ltd successfully bid for the Ratna and Rseries oil and gas field discoveries on the western offshore in 1993 but a formal contract was not signed with them. “Despite this, Moily took recourse to an ambiguous legal opinion given by attorney general GE Vahanavati who, even though he admitted that the contract was not signed, gave a very ambiguous opinion and did not state conclusively whether the contract had been concluded ,” said Bhushan.
His criticism of Vahanvati continued with Bhushan adding that the use of convenient and often dishonest opinion of law officers as a cover for corrupt decisions of the government has become the most favoured modus operandi of the UPA government. “The same AG has been found to have given such convenient and indeed dishonest opinions earlier in the 2G scam to Raja (used by him to justify the tampering with ‘first come, first served’ norm) and the diversion of coal by Reliance from the Sasan block that the CAG has found to be Rs 29,000 crore,” he said.
The contract with Essar was not signed in 1993 based on observations by the CAG and a CBI investigation into the contracts with other parties . Bhushan alleged that Moily tried to push for allocating the fields to Essar at prices fixed in 1993. The fields have estimated cumulative oil reserves of 12.33 million metric tonnes and 1,285 million metric standard cubic meters of natural gas with a project life of 22 years. “The Planning Commission, finance and law departments have also said that no contract had been formalized . In 2008, the Union cabinet secretary had warned that there would be a huge revenue loss for the government, and that the contract had not been duly concluded. The issue at hand is whether the field can be given to Essar even though the bid conditions are 18 years old and the price of oil has increased six times in this period, given the fact that the contract was never signed,” he added.
An Essar spokesperson said: “Essar was awarded the Ratna R-series block in an open and transparent manner through a bidding process . We are not aware of any internal notes or documents of MoPNG in the matter. However, it is in national interest to make any block operational , especially when there has been significant delay already and the country is importing over 70% of its crude requirement at a high cost in foreign exchange.”