The Supreme Court on Thursday declined Maharashtra government’s plea to close the case of alleged bribing in the Enron-Dabhol power project. It was reported that the then bidders of the project, Enron, had paid money to politicians and bureaucrats to clinch the deal.
A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, while turning down the plea moved by the state, asked it to submit by March 13 a plan on how it intended to bring the case to a logical conclusion. The Bench also asked the state to submit details of the steps it had taken so far on the recommendations of a committee that has suggested judicial probe into the power project in 2001.
In 1992, US Energy conglomerate Enron started the process to set up a gas-fired power plant at Dabhol in Maharashtra. Work on the project soon ran into trouble on allegations of corruption and bribery at the highest levels. A new government took charge in Maharashtra in 1995 and on recommendations of a committee scraped the project. Enron then entered into arbitration with the government but came to a new agreement one year later.
Later in 2000, when another government took over, it stopped the payment of $22 million to Enron for December 2000. The state then sought to cancel the power purchase deal, which promoted Enron to stop work on phase-II of the project and sell phase-I.
The Maharashtra government in 2001 had ordered another probe led by Indian Administrative Services (IAS) Officer Madhav Godbole. The committee criticised the renegotiated terms for the power plant and recommended a judicial inquiry to fix administrative and political accountability.
The project was later taken over by Ratnagiri Gas and Power, a consortium of Union government-owned companies — NTPC and GAIL, and the Maharashtra government, in 2005. NTPC had then signed a 25-year power purchase deal, under which while Maharashtra agreed to buy 95 per cent of Dabhol’s power, Daman & Diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli agreed to buy 2 per cent each. Goa had agreed to buy 1 per cent of power generated from Dabhol power project.
The Dabhol power plant was built in nine years at the cost of $2.9 billion and started operations in 2001. The plant was supposed to have a capacity of 2,184 megawatts. Enron owned 65 per cent of the project, while the Maharashtra State Electricity Board owned 15 per cent in the project. General Electric and Bechtel Enterprises owned 10 per cent, respectively.