New Delhi, Oct. 17: The divestment programme appears to have come unstuck with the government deciding to defer financial bidding for Shipping Corporation of India and Hindustan Copper Ltd.
The decision has been prompted by a number of court cases challenging the selloff in these two state-owned firms for which the bids were due to close this week.
Sources associated with the process said the government was apprehensive that the Supreme Court verdict in the case relating to the selloff in the two oil public sector undertakings (PSUs) — Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd — could rub off in the case of these two PSUs.
The apex court had directed that the oil PSUs could not be sold without parliamentary approval. The disinvestment ministry is embroiled in over 30 cases challenging divestment in various high courts.
The government owns 80 per cent in Shipping Corporation and it plans to sell a 51 per cent stake in the PSU to a strategic investor.
Hindustan Copper has a paid up capital of Rs 543.61 crore with a government shareholding of 539.81 crore (figures as on March 2002).
Shipping Corporation employees had earlier filed a writ petition in Mumbai high court, challenging divestment of the PSU on the grounds that two shipping companies — Jayanti Shipping and Mogul Lines — acquired and nationalised, were later merged with the company and therefore, no divestment was possible without parliamentary approval.
A public interest litigation was filed by Forum for Justice and Peace in the Delhi High Court. It also raises the basic question of parliamentary approval for PSU privatisation.
The employees of Hindustan Copper, too, have filed writ petitions in Madhya Pradesh high court and Jharkhand high court.
The Indian Copper Complex workers’ union in Ghatsila, has approached the high court at Ranchi. Four unions of the Khetri smelter complex have approached the Supreme Court on the ground that the Ghatsila complex had been acquired by an act of Parliament.
Shipping Corporation was incorporated in 1961 with the amalgamation of the Eastern Shipping Corporation and Western Shipping Corporation.