Mansingh likely to get back his powers soon

Vol 14, PW 16 (10 Feb 11) People & Policy

Gas and downstream regulator Labanyendu Mansingh must be biting his fingernails as dramatic reversals continue in a crucial Supreme Court of India case which will decide if he remains powerless or not.

PETROWATCH learns that in the latest twist the PNGRB and the oil ministry jointly approached the Supreme Court of India on January 21 asking that the case be heard sooner rather than later. As a result, the court is expected to call a hearing shortly to ‘modify’ or overturn a January 21, 2010 Delhi High Court order barring Board chairman Mansingh from authorising cross country pipelines and issuing retail gas licences.

But first the oil ministry and the Board must ensure that Harish Salve, the senior lawyer for the gas regulator, is available for the entire day in court. “Efforts are being made to arrange an equally senior lawyer if Salve is unable to spare a full day any time soon,” we learn.

At the last hearing on December 13, 2010, Salve couldn’t make the court date. Inexplicably, the court then set the date for the next hearing as far away as August 30, leading conspiracy theorists to suspect a plot to effectively hobble Mansingh for the rest of his term, as he steps down on October 10 this year.

Even if Mansingh doesn’t get his powers back soon, we learn, the Board plans to stick to its February 18 technical bid opening deadline for the third round of retail gas auctions. “We’ve changed the deadline many times,” says a frustrated Board source.

“We don’t plan to postpone it any more. Anyway, even with the Delhi High Court order in place we can still receive and process bids.

” It will take at least a month to process bids for the third round, he adds, “by which time the Supreme Court order should come in.”

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