Justice Mahajan "exceeded brief" in Niko 'v' GSPC

Vol 5, PW 10 (04 Jul 01) People & Policy

Call it professional rivalry, or just a better understanding of the case.

Two Delhi High Court judges who "set aside" an 8th March judgement by Justice S.K Mahajan in favour of Gujarat Petroleum against Niko Resources have told their colleague he exceeded his brief.

In a 31-page order dated 1st June and obtained by Petrowatch, Justices Kishan Kaul and Devinder Gupta strongly disapprove of Mahajan's effort to probe the rights and wrongs of the case, i.e.

if construction of the 36-inch, 14-km pipeline from Hazira to Mora fell within the productions sharing contract (Mahajan said it did not, to the relief of Gujarat Petroleum). "The learned judge ought not to have gone into the merits of this controversy," reads the order.

"In our view the matter ought to be left to be adjudicated upon by the arbitrator." No doubt it will be under Article 31 of the PSC. But when On conclusion of a separate petition filed by Niko in the Supreme Court under Section 11 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996.

This is still underway, but it seems likely the Supreme Court will now rubber stamp Kaul and Gupta's order, paving the way for an "Arbitral Tribunal of Three Arbitrators" - one each from either side and the third chosen by mutual consent. Only after arbitration will we know whos right and whose wrong.

Until then the jury's still out..