Thursday, May 20, 2010

My activist friend V M Raste, Mighty Billionaire Ambani Brothers, and the Indian Government...

Last May 7, 2010 the Indian Supreme Court came out with its final judgment on the 4-year old dispute between billionaire brothers Anil Ambani (34th world richest) of Reliance Natural Resources Ltd vs. Mukesh Ambani (7th wordl richest) of Reliance Industries Ltd.

I am posting this entry in support of the advocacy for truth and justice, of Team Corporate Watch - Convener, VM Raste and his advocate friends. Their efforts finally bore fruit with the Indian Supreme Court decision declaring among others,that government policy on natural gas pricing and allocation be reviewed, and that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ambani brothers to settle their internal family disputes, which became the basis for the Scheme of Arrangement on the production and supply of natural gas that affected millions of shareholders and 1.2 billion citizens, be fully disclosed and also reviewed.

Of personal significance to me as an ordinary observer, are the implications of how the rich and powerful could have imposed their personal interests on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding mediated by their mother to come out with the Scheme to settle their differences. There was total disregard on the effect on their millions of shareholders and on the possible impact on the world market on the production, sale and distribution of natural gas, had the Supreme Court not overruled the initial judgment that the MOU was binding and that the Ambani brothers can dictate its own pricing on natural gas owned by the people of India without the guidance of a government policy.

VM Raste on his own personal conviction, represented the millions of minority shareholders affected by the MOU and arrangement between the Ambani brothers. As Petitioner, Mr Raste submitted the following to the Supereme Court:

• The order of the Hon’ble Division Bench shall be set aside.
• MOU shall be directed to be produced even at this late hour.
• GSMA (Gas Sales & Master Agreement) shall be changed as mentioned above in respect of price, 40 % option volumes and affiliates.
• The Hon’ble Court shall order examination of the entire issue of MOU comprehensively by a panel of experts without any conflict of interest.
• The EGOM (empowered Group of Ministers) shall be directed to review the gas pricing and allocation decisions in the broader Public Interest.

He also emphasized in his petition that the MOU divided the property between the brothers on a 60%-40% ratio when their total shareholdings in the company was only 37%...the remaining 63% were held by other minority shareholders.

A link on the full text of VM Raste's written submissions is provided here for reference :!/notes/vishweshwar-m-raste/reliance-natgas-case-in-the-supreme-court-our-written-submissions/228451680635 .

The case, which primarily involved the production, supply, pricing and sale of India's natural gas, could easily be one of the biggest court cases in the world involving over US$100billion. With the decision, and if the present policy is effectively reviewed the government of India stands to gain an estimated $50billion.

In essence, the court ruled on the following:

1) the Company Judge and Division Bench made an error in confirming that the MOU was binding
2) the parties to renegotiate as to the suitable arrangements for supply of gas, within the framework of government policy;
3) The government frames a comprehensive policy/suitable legislation with regard to energy security of India and supply of natural gas under production sharing contracts.

I read the 267-page Supreme Court ruling with keen interest, though initially confused with the many acronyms used on companies and agencies affected by the dispute...a simple indicator on the impact of the case to many agencies and 1.2 billion people.

To access the full Supreme Court decision:

1) click on the link
2) click on Home>Petitioner/Respondent
3) Enter "Reliance" on the "Petitioner/Respondent" field
4) Enter "07May2010" on the"To Date" field

Related entries I posted on VM Raste's advocacies:

I will leave the more detailed aspect of the judgment to the advocates who will be coming out with their article on their analysis of the judgment. This personal entry is my own little voice supporting what I believe in.

On a personal note, I have always expressed my open support for VM Raste's quest for truth and justice and still do. I end this entry with a message of best wishes of success for all his endeavors...Salute.