Energy Watchdog, a society working for protection of consumer interest in energy sector, has moved the Delhi High Court challenging the appointments of Shashi Shanker and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as the CMD and non-official director of Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), respectively.
The petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, challenged the two appointments made in September 2017.
It stated that Sambit Patra is the “official National Spokesperson of the ruling Party BJP at the Centre and is very active in day-to- day politics. He can be seen almost daily on television screens defending his party’s / Government’s position on various matters. As such he cannot play the role of an Independent Director being “related to promoters”.
It said his appointment was a violation of Section 149(6) of the Companies Act 2013 and even his name did not appear in the data bank of eligible persons willing to act as independent director.
“Moreover, State largesse cannot be passed on to a private political person in this manner. In ONGC, an Independent Director gets Rs 40,000 per day of sitting in a Board meeting and Rs 30,000 per day for Board Committee meetings. As per Annual Report 2016-17, there were three Independent Directors on the Board for the full year, and their average remuneration is Rs 23.36 lakh for FY17,” it said.
The PIL claimed that “under pressure of the Central Government, ONGC has recently bought 80 per cent equity stake for Rs 7,758 crore in the controversial project established by Gujarat State Govt-owned company GSPC. The said State is also ruled by the same Political Party i.e., BJP to which Patra belongs”.
On the appointment of Shashi Shanker as the CMD, the PIL said he has a tainted past and the vigilance division of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had, in 2015, suspended him stating that he “has committed gross misconduct. The details of the charges will be given in the charge sheet” pertaining to procurement of blowout preventers.
However, his suspension was revoked as the charge sheet against him could not be filed within 90 days.
When the petitioner filed RTI application seeking information about cases against him, the CVC provided a copy of vigilance clearance dated July 7, 2017, and cited unavailability of complete information as sought by the petitioner.
“This stand of CVC was contrary to what was stated by the Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas in the Rajya Sabha on this issue, where he had stated that the matter of suspension of the Shanker was closed on the advice of CVC,” the PIL said.