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Corporate Mar 2, 2012

SC bench opts out of Cairn-Vedanta PIL hearing

New Delhi:A Supreme Court bench todayrecused itself from hearing a petition challenging thevalidity of the $8.5 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal and seekinga CBI probe into reasons why the ONGC and the government did "not assert" their legal rights in the issue.

Without giving any reason, a bench of justices HL Dattuand CK Prasad said it would not like to hear the matter andthat it will go to some other bench.The judges simply said that the matter should not belisted before them.

The petition, which was filed on 27 February, had alsosought audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) intoseveral aspects of the deal.Reuters

The petition, which was filed on 27 February, had alsosought audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) intoseveral aspects of the deal and government approvals for theacquisition of the majority stake of Cairn India by AnilAgarwal's Vedanta Resources on the ground that the offer inthis regard should have gone first to the state-owned PSUONGC.

The PIL, filed by a Bangalore resident Arun KumarAgarwal, stated that the ONGC, in an agreement with Cairngroup, had a clause that in case the Cairn Group wanted tosell its shares in Cairn India, it would first offer the same to the ONGC.If the ONGC refused to buy the stake, then only canCairnsell it to another party and, hence, the ONGC had the right offirst refusal (ROFR), it said.

It alleged that the decision on the deal had been made on"extraneous considerations" and without taking into accountrelevant considerations. The petition said that had the ONGC, which was the jointventure partner of Cairn India, been offered its ROFR for theCairn India's shares and had it exercised its right, theexchequer would have benefited by over Rs one lakh crore.

However, Cairn Energy signed a deal with Vedanta groupto sell its shares in Cairns India, without making an offer tothe ONGC, the PIL said.Agarwal was the first complainant in the 2G spectrum scamresulting in the lodging of the FIR.

PTI

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