Delhi-based NGOs, Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Common Cause, have filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court seeking an SIT investigation into the alleged over-valuation of power equipment and Indonesian coal imports by some power firms to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is currently investigating over a dozen firms, including firms of the Adani Group, Essar Group and Reliance ADAG Group, among others for alleged over valuation of Indonesian coal imports and power equipment imports between 2011 and 2015.
The NGOs, through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, have alleged that some power firms are involved in “over-invoicing of about 400 per cent of power equipment and fuel in order to siphon off money to their promoter firms registered in tax havens and also in order to inflate electricity tariffs which are based on the cost of equipment and fuel”.
“This is a very serious matter involving tens of thousands of crore. The CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry against some Adani Group firms, which was closed during the tenure of Ranjit Sinha, who is now being investigated by the SIT. Over-invoicing by these firms leads to taking more loans from banks than is required, cheating of consumers as higher tariffs are passed on to the consumers and cheating of shareholders of these firms as money is being siphoned off abroad,” Bhushan said.
On Wednesday, Justice C Hari Shankar recused himself from hearing the case as he has appeared for some of the firms named in the petition in the past.
The counsel appearing for the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, said the government is opposing even the issuance of notice in the petition as it would “jeopardise the entire power sector.”
The high court will now hear the case on September 20.
According to the DRI, overvaluation of power equipment and coal has the effect of artificially raising the tariff values fixed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission or the respective state regulatory commissions.
The DRI has alleged that several traders are directly importing Indonesian coal but the invoices are “routed through one or more related /associated intermediary firms based abroad” after artificially inflating its value. To justify the inflated price, “manipulated test reports” of the quality of coal is submitted to PSUs and Customs. This coal is then supplied to public power generation firms at the “artificially inflated import price and the inflated price is remitted from India to the intermediary firms abroad which remit only the actual price to the suppliers of the coal and the balance is siphoned off elsewhere”.