On Thursday, September 12, the Madras High Court issued a notice to the Centre, regarding permission granted for using a single license for exploration and extraction of all hydrocarbon resources as ultra vires. This notice was given to the Centre as well as others after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed. A bench comprising of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee issued a notice to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the Director-General of Hydrocarbons and two other companies. Further hearing on the matter will be held on November 7.
'Poovulagin Nanbargal" (Friends of the Earth), an organisation based in Tamil Nadu, filed the PIL in HC and submitted the Marginal Field Policy (MFP) Resolution published in the Central Gazette on October 31, 2015. This allowed production operators to explore and extract all hydrocarbon resources with a single license. The Oilfields Regulation and Development Act, 1948, and Petroleum and Natural Gas (PNG) Rules, 1959 cover the hydrocarbon resources. The MFP was approved by the Union Cabinet with the objective of bringing marginal fields at the earliest to the production to increase the domestic production of oil and gas, on September 2, 2015.
The PIL claimed paragraph 2 of the MFP Resolution to be contrary to the provisions of Rule 3(k) read with Rule 4 of the PNG Rules and hence to be declared as null and void. Rule 3(k) claimed the petroleum to be in 'free state' but the MFP granted permission to explore an array of conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources. After the MFP was approved, licenses were granted with respect to the 31 approved contract areas which included 23 on land and eight offshore regions.
The activist group started in the late 1980s, and are known for fighting the Kudankulam nuclear power plant case in 2011. The HC dismissed the PIL after which the petition was filed in the Supreme Court which upheld the HC's decision. The activist group has filed more PILs like the Chennai-Salem Expressway and Neutrino Observatory along with the current extraction of hydrocarbon petition.
(with PTI inputs)