RIL dares government on Saudi Aramco
Reliance Industries has mounted a strong counter to the government petition in Delhi High Court, seeking to block its $15-billion deal with Saudi Aramco, saying “the petition is an abuse of process as no arbitration award has fixed any final liability of dues on the company”.
In a counter affidavit, Reliance said it was a “falsehood” to say that the arbitration tribunal had passed an award requiring the company and its partners to pay $3.5 billion to the government.
It said “the petition is an abuse of process as “it portrays that a sum of money is due and payable under the final award and purports to compute the money payable on a basis neither found in the arbitration award nor disclosed in the petition”.
The government, it said, has calculated on its own volition the revised figure of its share of profit from oil and gas production allegedly due by extrapolating the purported finds.
The affidavit came in response to the government moving the Delhi high court, seeking to block Reliance selling a 20 per cent stake in its oil and chemical business to Saudi Aramco for $15 billion, in view of pending dues of $3.5 billion in the Panna-Mukta and Tapti oil and gasfields.
An international arbitration tribunal issued a partial award in October 2016 in the dispute between the Government of India (GoI), BG Exploration & Production India Ltd (BG) and RIL regarding the Panna-Mukta and Tapti production sharing contracts.
The tribunal in its 2016 award determined certain issues of principles. Pending determination of all issues before it, appropriately, it did not award any monetary sum. Quantification of amounts, if any, by the tribunal is to be done when all issues have been decided.
Certain parts of the 2016 award were challenged by BG/RIL before an English court wherein it decided some parts of challenge in favour of BG/RIL and directed the arbitration tribunal to reconsider those parts of the 2016 award.
The tribunal, having reconsidered, issued another partial award in December 2018 which was in favour of BG/RIL.
While this challenge was pending in the English court, the Indian government unilaterally calculated certain amounts, based on its interpretation of the 2016 award, which the government alleges are payable by ONGC, BG and RIL.
RIL said pursuant to the 2018 award, the GoI’s claim comes down very significantly — a fact which the government has not taken cognisance of and approached the Delhi high court prematurely for enforcement of its claim.