SC bench recuses itself on Cairn-Vedanta deal

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench today recused itself from hearing a petition challenging the validity of the USD 8.5 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal and seeking a CBI probe into reasons for ONGC and government in "not asserting" their legal rights in the issue.

Without giving any reason, a bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad said it would not like to hear the matter and that it will go to some other bench.

The judges simply said that the matter should not be listed before them.

The petition, which was filed on February 27, had also sought audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into several aspects of the deal and government approvals for the acquisition of the majority stake of Cairn India by Anil Agarwal`s Vedanta Resources on the ground that the offer in this regard should have gone first to the state-owned PSU ONGC.

The PIL, filed by a Bangalore resident Arun Kumar Agarwal, stated that the ONGC, in an agreement with Cairn group, had a clause that in case the Cairn Group wanted to sell its shares in Cairn India, it would first offer the same to the ONGC.

If the ONGC refused to buy the stake, then only Cairn can sell it to another party and, hence, the ONGC had the right of first refusal (ROFR), it said.

It alleged that the decision on the deal had been made on "extraneous considerations" and without taking into account relevant considerations.

The petition said that had the ONGC, which was the joint venture partner of Cairn India, been offered its ROFR for the Cairn India`s shares and had it exercised its right, the exchequer would have benefited by over Rs one lakh crore.

However, Cairn Energy signed a deal with Vedanta group to sell its shares in Cairns India, without making an offer to the ONGC, the PIL said.

Agarwal was the first complainant in the 2G spectrum scam resulting in the lodging of the FIR.