Enron-Dabhol case: SC closes case of alleged corruption due to long delay

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday brought down the curtain on the case of alleged corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats and corporates in the Enron-Dabhol power project, saying that "long delay" of over 25 years, will serve no "useful purpose" in continuing with the judicial commission of inquiry.

The top court was faced with the sole question as to whether the judicial commission of inquiry, which was set up on November 7, 2001 under the chairmanship of former apex court judge S P Kurdukar, should continue with the probe to ascertain culpability of various public servants in the 1993 case.

"In view of the long delay and in view of the fact that due to non-availability of many persons involved, no useful purpose would be served in continuing with the judicial commission of inquiry, we close the petition in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case," said a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

The plea for judicial inquiry was raised before the apex court in view of the findings of a committee headed by Mahdav Godbole, former Home Secretary.

The Godbole Committee, in its report to theMaharashtra government in 2001, had indicated serious illegalities in the matter of award of the contract and processing of approvals, which were prima facie against public interest.

It said that "failure of governance" was "broad and across different governments and at both administrative and political levels".

According to the suggestion of the Godbole Committee, a one-man enquiry commission headed by Justice Kurdukar was appointed.

The report had dealt with handling of the issues during the tenure of Sharad Pawar as the Chief Minister when he was in Congress Party, the 13-day-long BJP-led Union government which had reworked the deal in 1996, the then Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray and his government in Maharashtra headed by Manohar Joshi.

While declining the plea for judicial inquiry, the apex court, however, said that normally a probe was needed in such cases.

"We are of the considered view that though normally in such a case a judicial inquiry should have been conducted but as far as the present case is concerned, more than a quarter of century has elapsed since the first PPA was executed.

"The foreign corporation and the original project proponents are no longer available. Most of the senior officials would have retired and virtually no action can be taken against them.

"Furthermore, the commission of inquiry even if continued or constituted afresh, will take its own time and, as opined by three members of the Godbole Committee, the constitution of such commission of inquiry would serve no useful purpose. This was the stand in the year 2001 and has greater force 18 years later," the verdict said.

The USD 3 billion mega power project was set up in Maharashtra by US-based Enron and its associates Dabhol Power Corporation in 1996 after signing of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) in 1993.

In 2005, Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd, a joint venture of NTPC Limited, GAIL and Government of Maharashtra was set up to take over and revive the assets of the defunct DPC.

The apex Court had in 1997 admitted the petition of Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) challenging a Bombay High Court order upholding the PPA and issued notice to MSEB only on the role of government and its officials in the signing of the PPA.

Earlier, when the petition had come up for hearing, the apex court was informed by the Maharashtra government about the developments that have taken place since the matter came up before the Bombay High Court in 1996.

The state government also filed an affidavit that due to long efflux of time it was no longer useful or feasible to continue with the judicial commission of inquiry.

The apex court, on February 14, had however told the state government that it would not close the case.

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