Cairn court case in Ahmedabad deferred to April 28

Vol 12, PW 23 (23 Apr 09) People & Policy

Anyone watching the outcome of Cairn India’s writ petition against the Indian government and income tax authorities for a definition of â€کmineral oil’ will have to wait longer.

PETROWATCH learns this landmark case scheduled for hearing at the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad on April 15 has been adjourned till April 28 because no one from the Delhi office of the Solicitor General of India could make it to Ahmedabad. A correspondent reports that when proceedings began at 10.30am, the Division Bench of Justices AL Dave and SR Brahmbhatt agreed to a request from government counsel (Mrs) Mauna M.

Bhatt to delay proceedings by another two weeks. Such is the importance of this case that the court is unable to issue a ruling until the Solicitor General of India or an Additional Solicitor General presents the government’s side of the matter.

“All the pleadings in the case are complete,â€‌ reports a source. “The Gujarat High Court must now hear what the Union of India says through the Solicitor General or the Additional Solicitor General.

â€‌ Whether this will happen at the April 28 hearing or later, if the Solicitor General, or someone from his office, still can’t make it to Ahmedabad, is unclear. Cairn’s petition against the Union of India, the Director of Income Tax (International Taxation) and Assistant Director of Income Tax (International Taxation) is in response to attempts by former finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to strip gas producers of a seven-year tax holiday on production after April 1, 1997.

Chidambaram’s budget speech to parliament on February 29 last year single-handedly extinguished international interest in NELP-VII when he interpreted Section 80-IB (9) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to exclude natural gas from the widely accepted definition of â€کmineral oil’. Unless the finance ministry makes its position clear before the August 10 deadline for NELP-VIII, expect similar confusion this time round also.