Wait longer for CGD open access to 54 areas

Vol 24, PW 26 (18 Nov 21) Midstream, Downstream, Renewables

Any hopes the PNGRB can do any work to open access to 54 gas retail areas or allow companies to set up LNG stations must wait till the end of the year or longer.

The Delhi High Court will hear Gujarat Gas's cases challenging the PNGRB on these issues on December 22 (2021). But there is no guarantee of a ruling even then, and the case could drag on indefinitely.

"Interim orders granted on August 18 (2021) and October 11 (2021) shall continue to operate till the next date of hearing," said Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh in a single-page order on October 29 (2021) after an online hearing. GAIL director finance AK Tiwari joins the PNGRB as the new member commercial next month (December), but the downstream regulator will have to wait before the Delhi High Court delivers its final ruling on these contentious issues before he can do any work, possibly after December 22 (2021), maybe later.

In July (2021), Gujarat Gas challenged the PNGRB's move to allow the setting up of LNG stations by third parties in authorised areas. Gujarat Gas filed a second legal challenge against a September 13 (2021) PNGRB move to open access to 54 retail gas areas.

In no doubt is that the PNGRB's move to open up old city gas retail areas to third parties has vertically split the industry into two parts: old-established city gas retailers Gujarat Gas, Indraprastha Gas and Mahanagar Gas, and others view with abject fear and hostility the possibility that the PNGRB will open up their areas to potentially fatal competition. Gujarat Gas has the most to lose if the PNGRB opens access to the 54 regions as it has 13 of them, so too do traditional gas retailers like Indraprastha Gas and Mahanagar Gas.

In this keenly contested case, Gujarat Gas lawyers are Parag Tripathi, Piyush Joshi, Sumiti Yadava, Anisha Bhattacharya, Meghna Sengupta, Parminder Kaur, Vatsla Bhatia and Srinivasan Ramaswamy. Those appearing for the PNGRB are the additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain and lawyers Utkarsh Sharma, Tanuja Dhoulakhandi, Mohit Budhiraja, Pinki Mehra and Shipra Malhotra.