Petronet-LNG happy as police arrest tormentors

Vol 20, PW 21 (13 Jul 17) People & Policy
     

Petronet-LNG will be happy following the arrest of two Gujarat state energy department officials who in the past had allegedly demanded bribes.

During a sting operation on July 1, the state's anti-corruption bureau arrested chief electrical inspector and collector of electricity duty Prashant Natwarlal Gandhi and his personal assistant Gopal Prajapati for accepting a Rs60,000 ($900) bribe from an electrical contractor at Pipavav Port. Rewind four years and this same office made similar demands of Petronet-LNG.

When Petronet-LNG refused Gandhi allegedly changed the Dahej LNG terminal classification from an 'industrial undertaking' or HTP-I to 'storage' or HTP-IIA. This seemingly innocuous move resulted in an overnight hike in tax.

"After the reclassification," reports a Petronet LNG source, "we had to pay electricity duty at 45% instead of 20%." Petronet-LNG, he adds, challenged the legality of Gandhi's move in the Gujarat High Court and won. Three years ago on July 1 the court set aside the notices issued by Gandhi and ordered him to properly classify Dahej.

"Several oral and written representations have been made to the collector (Gandhi)," adds Petronet-LNG. "His order is awaited." If Gandhi is cleared of the corruption charges and insists on his earlier classification of Dahej, then Petronet-LNG will have to pay nearly Rs30cr ($4.5m) outstanding from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

Gandhi and Prajapati were arrested by a Gandhinagar team supervised by the Ahmedabad anti-corruption intelligence wing.