Anil Ambani group steps up campaign against Reliance on gas issue

Last Updated: Tue, Aug 18, 2009 03:04 hrs

New Delhi: In its continuing media campaign against Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and the Government on the KG Basin gas issue, the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group's advertisement blitz on Monday morning saw front page advertisements splashed across all major print dailies.

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Though the issue flagged by the advertisement was an "80 per cent higher gas price" outgo for power major NTPC Ltd and the "loss of up to Rs 30,000 crore" for the navratna public sector utility, even as RIL made "super-normal profits of nearly Rs 50,000 crore", the advertisement claimed it was issued "in the public and national interest on behalf of 8 million shareholders of Reliance ADAG."

As part of the efforts to mobilise public opinion, the advertisement also invited comments and responses. "We have got lakhs of text messages and over 1,000 e-mails already," an ADAG executive said. Insiders described it as a "multi-crore campaign" covering over 15 publications nationwide.

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In an interesting turn during the day, three persons claiming to be shareholders of NTPC moved a petition before the Delhi High Court seeking "investigation into the affairs of the company (NTPC) with regard to its contract with RIL for supply of 12 mscmd gas at $2.34 per mBtu."

PIL filed

The public interest litigation, filed on their behalf by advocate R.N. Ramalingam, also asked the Court to "direct NTPC to take immediate effective legal steps to have an early hearing and disposal of its application for interim relief to ensure supply of gas by RIL to NTPC."

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Sub-judice?

The advertisement blitz has, meanwhile, kicked off discussions in the legal fraternity on whether it would amount to contempt of court as the matter is currently sub judice. A section of senior lawyers, whom Business Line spoke to, said using the media to influence the judicial proceedings clearly attracts contempt.

"Running a poll like this would, in my view, tend to interfere with the course of justice and would amount to contempt," said Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor-General, Raju Ramachandran.

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A contrary view voiced by another section was that since the issue in the advertisement per se was not a matter before the court, it may not fall within contempt provisions.

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