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HC to decide on maintainability of plea against Sambit Patra

New Delhi, Nov 1 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday fixed November 8 for passing an order on the maintainability of a plea challenging the appointment of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as an Independent Director on the board of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC).

The court heard the arguments of central government and an NGO, which has filed the petition against Patra’s appointment, and said before seeking Centre’s response through an affidavit, it would pass an order on November 8 whether the petition is maintainable.

The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Energy Watchdog through advocate Prashant Bhushan said proper procedure was not followed for appointing Patra to the post.

Being an active member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Patra could not play the role of an Independent Director or non-official director in ONGC as this would violate the Companies Act, Bhushan contended.

He said that selection process was also flawed since Patra’s name did not appear in the data bank of eligible persons for the post.

Opposing the plea, Additional Solicitor Genral Sanjay Jain told the court that the BJP was different from the government, and as Patra was not a part of the government, he could be appointed as an Independent Director.

The plea also challenged the appointment of Shashi Shanker as Chairman and Managing Director of the ONGC.

While seeking cancellation of Shanker’s appointment, the NGO asked the court to set aside September 25 and 29 government orders appointing him and Patra, respectively, to the ONGC board.

The plea stated that in February 2015, Shanker was suspended by the Vigilance Department of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for alleged gross misconduct in connection with a tender-related matter when he was Director – Technology and Field Services in ONGC.

The NGO contended that Shanker’s suspension was revoked in July 2015 citing the Supreme Court’s general observation that a suspended officer should be reinstated a charge-sheet is not filed within 90 days.

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