Shimla: The High Court today harshly came down on the Himachal Government over its shifting stance in the allotment of 960 MW Jangi-Thopan and Thopan-Powari power projects to Brakel Corporation. The court directed that the chief secretary make the governments stand on the issue clear by filing an affidavit within 4 weeks.
The matter was heard by the two judge bench court of Chief Justice Jagdish Bhalla and Justice Rajiv Sharma.
Reliance Energy, a rival generation company that lost out these projects in a global bidding process, has petitioned the court that terms of reference for allotment of 960 MW Jangi-Thopan and Thopan-Powari projects on Satluj River have been violated. The petitioner has sought cancellation of the allotment and instead the next highest bidder be allotted the project on a matching bid basis.
The Himachal Government and Brakel Corporation have been made respondents.
The court held that status quo in the case be maintained till July 9 by when the government stand on the allotment made would be known and the case would come up for the next hearing.
In his reply Advocate General RK Bawa on behalf of the Himachal Government maintained that the petitioner company had no locus standi in the matter.
Supreme Court lawyer Rajiv Nayyar for the petitioners tried to draw the courts attention to an income tax report about the finances of the respondent company. The bench refused to take cognizance of it, saying that such a report would only attracted statutes related to the Income Tax Act.
The petitioner did bring to the court’s notice that the state was conducting a vigilance inquiry into the antecedents of the company that was allotted the project.
The bench questioned the basis of the governments action when the court was seized of the matter.
Putting the ball back in the governments court, the bench noted that after having accepted and en-cashed a cheque of Rs 173 crore paid as upfront money for allotment of the project as well as an interest amount of Rs 20 crore against delayed payments, following a decision by state cabinet, why the government had filed an affidavit before the court seeking its directions before signing of an pre-implementation agreement (PIA) with the respondent company.
Justice Rajiv Sharma while referring to the cabinet decision observed that there must be consistency in government actions as per rule of law.
The court observed that after having decided to drop the show cause notice subject to certain conditions which the respondent company had accepted in toto, how the government was making a U turn particularly when it had accepted Rs 173 crore as upfront payment and Rs 20 crore as interest on delayed payments.
Supreme Court lawyer Dushyant Dave for the respondent company let the court know that all kinds of government agencies had been let loose on them, which included FERA, income tax and vigilance inquiries.
He told the court that the respondent company had abided by all government directions and had deposited all dues and was ready to sign the PIA.