Law backs PNGRB against government bullying

Vol 20, PW 7 (15 Dec 16) People & Policy

If the Urja Ganga gas project is to go through in the face of PNGRB opposition the only option is to get the PNGRB Act amended.

This is easier said than done: parliament is log-jammed with opposition MPs enraged at Modi's controversial demonetisation scheme and the ensuing nationwide cash crisis. Also consider the legal opinion submitted by Delhi-based lawyer Saurav Agrawal on October 21 which the PNGRB later attached with an October 25 letter to the ministry objecting to its "policy directives".

Agrawal says the oil ministry has no business issuing policy directives under Section 42 of the PNGRB Act. Quoting Section 42, he asserts that such policy directives can be issued only in two scenarios: "When it is necessary in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order." Or when it is in the "public interest or for maintaining or increasing supplies of petroleum, petroleum products or gas or all or any of them or for securing their equitable distribution and ensuring adequate availability." Most important, Agrawal says under Section 42 policy directives must not relate to daily activity at the PNGRB, which must be given an opportunity to express its views before such directives are issued.

An explanation must also be given of why the directives are being issued.

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