Assam’s oil royalty woes due to Congress: Oil minister


NEW DELHI: Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan accused Congress of changing the royalty norms for oil-bearing states to “punish people of Gujarat for re-electing Narendra Modi as chief minister in 2007,” hurting the economic interests of Assam in the process.

“Gross injustice was done to Assam and today we are here to rectify that,” the minister said at a function in which public sector oil producers ONGC and Oil India Ltd paid Rs 1,450 crore as royalty dues under revised norms to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Pradhan was referring to the ministry’s 2008 order asking oil companies to pay 20% royalty on the discounted price at which they sold crude to state refiners. The producers have been giving discounts under central order since 2004 to help refiners sell fuels at artificially low prices set by the government.

The Gujarat government under Narendra Modi in 2011 challenged the 2008 order in the high court, seeking royalty on the pre-discounted price and the differential royalty since 2008, estimated at Rs 10,000 crore, from ONGC.
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The court ruled in Gujarat’s favour, which was challenged by ONGC in the Supreme Court, which asked the company to pay Gujarat royalty at pre-discounted price of oil.

When former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi sought similar treatment from the Centre in view of the SC ruling in Gujarat’s case, he was advised to approach the court. “Gogoi government filed a petition but did not fight it,” Pradhan said. But shortly after the BJP formed the government in the state, the ministry ordered ONGC and Oil India to pay Assam royalty at pre-discounted rates retrospectively from February 2014.