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Divestment review plea

New Delhi, Oct. 13: The Union government today indirectly sought a review of the Supreme Court judgment barring divestment in the oil sector without parliamentary legislation while arguing its case on Jessop and Company Ltd, privatisation for which is also in the final stages.

Although there was no review petition in the oil sector divestment case, the Centre told a three-judge bench of Chief Justice V.. Khare and Justices S. Rajendra Babu and R.C. Lahoti that the apex court verdict on privatisation of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd needs to be “interpreted” as it required “clarification”.

The court decision had given rise to “apprehensions” among potential investors and “therefore, the judgment needed clarification”, attorney-general Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the Centre, said during arguments in the Jessop case.

The bench adjourned the hearings for two weeks without going into the merits of any argument — either in the Jessop case or on Sorabjee’s contention — as the Officers Association of Jessop & Co. Ltd, the petitioner against divestment of Jessop, sought time to reply to the Centre’s contention.

Sorabjee sought to bring in the oil case during arguments on divestment of Jessop, which manufactures EMU coaches for the railways, by contending that the judgment on BPCL-HPCL divestment has raised “serious doubt” about the “entire” divestment process.

The attorney-general made this submission when the bench asked him whether the petition in the Jessop case needed to be allowed.

Sorabjee said the court judgment in the case of the oil majors — that the government would have to take Parliament’s approval for divesting in any company created out of the consolidated funds of India — would require “reconsideration”.

The Jessop officers association contended that it did not challenge the divestment policy of the government but was against the “extent and manner” of divestment in the EMU manufacturing unit which was “contrary to the declared policy of the government”.

The “process adopted by the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction in the course of disinvestment (in Jessop) is arbitrary, unreasonable and contrary to principles of natural justice and is in any event contrary to its statutory duties”, asserted the officers’ association.

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