BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra’s appointment as an independent director on the board of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Ltd was on Tuesday challenged in the Delhi High Court by an NGO. The NGO, in its plea, also sought cancellation of the appointment of Shashi Shanker as ONGC Chairman and Managing Director.
The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Energy Watchdog could not be taken up for hearing as the bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal did not assemble on Tuesday.
The matter has been fixed for hearing on November 1.
The PIL was filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, who alleged that Patra, being an active member of the ruling BJP, “cannot play the role of an Independent Director or non-official director (NOD) in ONGC as it would be a violation of the Companies Act.”
The plea claimed that the selection process was also “flawed” as the BJP leader’s name did not appear in the data bank of eligible persons for the post.
“State largesse cannot be passed on to a private political person in this manner,” it claimed.
Efforts to reach Patra for his comments on the issue did not fructify.
Opposing Shanker’s appointment, the NGO has contended that he was suspended in February 2015 by the vigilance department of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for alleged “gross misconduct” in connection with a tender matter while he was Director (Technology and Field Services) in ONGC.
However, his suspension was revoked in July 2015 citing the Supreme Court’s general observation that a suspended officer should be reinstated if an agency fails to file a chargesheet within 90 days, the plea said.
The petition has sought setting aside of the September 25 and September 29 orders appointing Shanker and Patra respectively to the ONGC board.
The NGO has sought directions to the Centre and the Central Vigilance Department to produce the records they have in connection with the suspension of Shanker.
It has also sought the grades awarded to Shanker and Patra by the Public Enterprises Selection Board which had interviewed them for the posts.