After diplomatic intervention by the French government, ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) has now got a legal breather too. The high court here gave a green signal for the removal of its equipment stuck at the Haldia Dock Complex under the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) on Thursday.
The court also appointed two special officers to look into the safe passage of machinery. KoPT had moved the court this week, seeking a compensation of Rs 233 crore for the losses on the firm’s pull-out from Haldia Dock Complex.
It also asked permission for not allowing HBT to remove its equipments worth Rs 140 crore. The court also asked East Medinipur district administration to ensure the safe passage of equipments.
"Today's verdict at the Calcutta High Court is a victory for us against the injudicious and continuous arm-twisting by KoPT. While all along the actions of KoPT seemed to be in the interest of precipitating our exit, KoPT did not even deter from making attempts to make our exit, obstacle-ridden and difficult. We are happy to inform that the Calcutta High Court has upheld our right to remove our equipment, totally free from encumbrances from the Haldia Dock Complex. Moreover it has instructed for the same to happen under the supervision of court appointed special officers," Gurpreet Malhi, CEO, HBT, in a strongly worded statement.
When contacted, KoPT chairman Manish Jain said that KoPT would appeal to a division bench with the Calcutta High Court soon. HBT — a joint venture between ABG Infralogistics and French firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs — had pulled out of its operations at berth number 2 and 8 at HDC, breaking a 10-year-contract (2010-20) on October 31, citing law and order issues and alleging vested interests from port authorities.
HBT on Thursday blamed KoPT squarely and reiterated that that total non-cooperation of KoPT at the highest levels, roadblocks put up by them at all levels and times, and the actions of KoPT in collusion with the vested interests operating in HDC made it impossible to operate and forced HBT to exit causing loss of livelihood and enormous financial loss to HBT.
Recently, the French government had approached the Centre seeking a safe passage of HBT equipments. The immediate trigger for HBT’s pull out of the contract from 2010-2020, was the abduction of three of its officials, including the family of one employee on October 28. The abduction happened even after the firm paid Rs 17,45,730 for the deployment of police personnel towards restoration of peace at Haldia Dock, based on a Calcutta High Court order. The situations turned violent at Haldia after HBT retrenched some workers on September 22.