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2016 (10) TMI 754 - DELHI HIGH COURT

2016 (10) TMI 754 - DELHI HIGH COURT - TMI - Permission to direct export or in the alternative permission/facilitation for canalised export - crude oil extracted from the Rajasthan Block RJ-0N-90/1 - maintainability of petition - contractual matters - Held that: - the present writ petition is maintainable as a writ court is empowered to entertain a writ petition even in contractual matters when the contract has been executed in pursuance to a constitutional provision and the issues involved are .....

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ltimate decision to permit export/import is always a decision to be taken by the STE which is, of course, justiciable. Consequently, in the present case, it is for the IOC to allow or refuse permission for export on germane grounds - The other option to a party wanting to export crude oil is to apply under para 2.20(c) for an authorisation from DGFT and if so authorised, then to export it directly. - The reasons given by the Empowered Committee of Secretaries are legal, germane and valid gro .....

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ted question of fact as according to the respondent- UOI the crude generated by the petitioners is Dated Brent and not Bonny Light. This is all the more relevant as it is an admitted position that the crude oil generated by the petitioners is of very heavy quality, high viscosity and wax with high pour point and residues. Even the petitioners during arguments admitted that the only way to ascertain the international price is to allow export of the crude generated. Consequently, it cannot be said .....

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in the contract, but with no order as to costs. - W. P. (C) 11600/2015 & CM APPL. 30709/2015 - Dated:- 18-10-2016 - Hon'ble Mr. Justice Manmohan, J. For the Petitioners : Mr. C.S. Sundaram, Senior Advocate with Ms. Fereshte Sethna, Mr. Rajat Juneja and Mr. Adhijraj Malhotra, Advocates. For the Respondents : Mr. Tushar Mehta, ASG with Mr. Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC with Mr. Naveen Bhardwaj, Advocate for R-1& 2/UOI. Mr. V.N. Koura with Mr. P.K. Benipal and Mr. Sumit Benipal, Advocates JUDGMEN .....

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respondent no. 2 or its nominee Public Sector Undertakings (for short "PSUs"). 2. Mr. C.S. Sundaram, learned senior counsel for the petitioners stated that exploration, development and production of crude oil is a highly capital extensive operation. He stated that petitioner nos. 1 and 3 have invested more than rupees thirty thousand crores in the Rajasthan Block and have brought world class technology to India. 3. He stated that today, at the current level of production, approximatel .....

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rofit petroleum, share of its nominee, royalty and cess. 4. Mr. Sundaram contended that the Foreign Trade Policy of Government of India permits canalized export of crude oil through respondent no. 3 or direct export with the approval of respondent no.1. He stated that as Sr. No. 113 of Chapter 27 of Schedule 2 of ITC (HS) Classification of Export and Import provides for procedure for export of crude oil, it is permissible to export the crude oil. Consequently, according to him, petitioners have .....

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ts share of the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil which the Government or its nominee PSUs are unable to lift. He stated that as Government and its Nominee PSUs are unable to lift the entire Rajasthan Block Crude Oil, Article 18.7 of the PSC comes into play and the petitioners have the unfettered right to lift and export the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil to the said extent. 6. He further submitted that Article 18.7 of the PSC is independent of Article 18.1 and therefore, the fact that India has not attained .....

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taining high viscosity and wax to Essar and Reliance at a price lower than the international rates. He pointed out that Essar and Reliance are the only refineries which have the technology to refine the particular grade of crude oil generated by the petitioners. 9. On the other hand, Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for respondents stated that the relationship between the petitioners and respondent No.2 is contractual in nature, which is governed by the provisions .....

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n is not maintainable. 11. Mr. Mehta submitted that under Article 18 of PSC, a right is conferred upon the petitioner to seek permission to export the oil produced from the subject block only when self-sufficiency is attained by the country; meaning thereby that the total consumption of oil within India is either at par or less than the total production of oil and gas within India. According to him, Article 18.4 provides for deemed election in case of failure by Government to exercise this optio .....

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e government, but to extract natural resources in the larger interest of the country. 13. Learned Additional Solicitor General further submitted that whether to permit export of crude oil exploited from the fields located within the territory of India essentially falls within the realm of a policy decision, which is to be taken by the government keeping in mind the national interest and larger public purpose. He pointed out that the National Policy is that, export of crude oil is not permitted t .....

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produced oil and the energy demands within the country. He stated that the domestic requirement of crude oil is presently met partly with domestic production including Rajasthan Block Crude Oil and mainly from import. The chart relied upon by Mr. Mehta is reproduced hereinbelow :- Quantity in million tones 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 Domestic Crude Oil Production 37.86 37.79 37.46 Consumption of crude oil in terms of Domestic refining Capacity 219.21 222.5 223.24 Quantity of crude oil imported 184. .....

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t of crude oil, apart from being not contemplated under the PSC was also against the national policy of Zero per cent export till India attain self-sufficiency. He stated that the "energy security" would be adversely affected in light of the following facts:- (i) The domestic oil exported overseas would have to be replaced by more-expensive imported lighter crude oil, which would be detrimental to consumer interest. Allowing crude oil exports would lower the domestic supply available t .....

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be accentuated if the export of very scarce petroleum mineral viz. crude oil is permitted and would be deterimental to Indian economy as an additional cost burden on account of two-side shipping tariff without any explicit monetary advantage to Indian economy in the immediate run. (iii) Permitting export of domestic crude would certainly compel the Indian refineries to operate by importing additional equivalent quantity of crude oil at higher cost, consequently leading to reduction in Gross ref .....

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xport of the oil produced by the petitioner is a policy decision of the Government, which cannot be in any way termed to be an arbitrary, irrational or malafide decision warranting interference by this Court in writ jurisdiction. 18. He pointed out that whenever exploration of natural resources is undertaken, it is never an essence of the contract that the entire quantity available should be extracted. In all PSCs, there are provisions to either increase or reduce production based upon various f .....

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petitioners. He pointed out that Articles 19.4 and 19.5 stipulate that the price of the Crude Oil shall be determined between the petitioners and the buyers of Crude Oil and therefore, the petitioners have complete freedom to fix the price of crude oil at arm s length. 21. Mr. Mehta also stated that the notional price difference between the domestic market and international market as urged by the petitioners is misleading. He stated that while the crude oil being extracted by the petitioners is .....

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nd PVT buyer which is agreed amongst them at arm's length. 22. Mr. Tushar Mehta stated that the foreign trade policy is a policy document containing broad policy outlines of the Central Government to give effect to the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 [for short "Act, 1992"]. He submitted that Section 3(2) of the Act, 1992 empowers the Central Government to make provisions for either prohibiting, restricting or otherwise regulating particular export/import. Acco .....

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he DGFT after taking assistance and advice of EXIM Facilitation Committee under Para 2.51 which reads as under:- "2.51 EXIM Facilitation Committee (a) Restricted item Authorisation may be granted by DGFT or any other RA authorised by him in this behalf. DGFT/RA may take assistance and advice of a Facilitation Committee while granting authorisation. The Assistance of technical authorities may also be taken by seeking their comments in writing. Facilitation Committee will consist of represent .....

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grant for permission for export of 3 cargoes of 600,000 bbls each of RJ Crude Oil to South East Asian Refineries. The undersigned is directed to refer to DGFT's OM No. 01/91/10/95/AM 16/EC/1029 dated 28.1.2016 on the above captioned subject and to say that this Ministry has decided that till the time India becomes self-sufficient, crude oil produced domestically cannot be allowed to be exported as it would be detrimental to the energy security of the country and would also be violative of t .....

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f domestic production of crude oil is neither legally nor economically justified. 28. In rejoinder, Mr. Sundaram submitted that respondent's preliminary objection that the writ petition is not maintainable due to an arbitration Clause in the PSC is untenable. He stated that the petitioners through present writ petition seek directions to the respondent nos. 1 and 3 who are not parties to the PSC to allow export of the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil in accordance with the relevant rules, regulatio .....

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required to sell to the Government or its nominees their total share of the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil. According to him, on the Government failing to directly or through its nominees lift its share of the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil, Article 18.7 provides that Petitioner Nos. 1 and 3 shall be entitled to freely lift, sell and export any Crude Oil and Condensate which the Government has elected not to purchase. 30. Learned senior counsel for the petitioners contended that export of crude oil is nei .....

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ission from respondent no. 1. Thus, according to him, petitioner nos. 1 and 3 have a vested right to export the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil through respondent no. 3, which is being arbitrarily fettered in the present case by the respondents. 31. Mr. Sundaram further contended that the Office Memorandum dated 3rd February, 2016 is not a policy. He submitted that the said Office Memorandum is merely an arbitrary and unilateral decision taken by respondent no. 2 which does not and cannot tantamount t .....

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export, without restriction, the refined products and further, the end consumer does not directly buy or use the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil, which is only an intermediary product for the refined goods. 33. He further submitted that contrary to the Rules of Business the policy contained in the Office Memorandum dated 3rd February, 2016 had no concurrence of the Finance Department. He relied upon Delhi International Airport Ltd. Vs. International Lease Finance Corporation & Ors., (2015) 8 SCC .....

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e of Natural Resources Allocation, In Re, Special Reference No. 1 OF 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1. 35. Mr. Sundaram contended that there is no other way to discover the international price of the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil other than to export it. He stated that the private refineries which are permitted to export the refined products should not be permitted to purchase the Rajasthan Block Crude Oil at 20-25% discount from Brent Crude price inasmuch as Government also loses revenue. 36. Having heard the .....

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l to analyse paragraph 2.20 and Chapter 27 of the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020. The said paragraph and Chapter are reproduced hereinbelow:- Import/Export Through State Trading Enterprise: 2.20 State Trading Enterprises (STEs) (a) State Trading Enterprise (STEs) are governmental and non- governmental enterprises, including marketing boards, which deal with goods for export and/or import. Any good, import or export of which is governed through exclusive or special privilege granted to State Trad .....

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e opportunity, in accordance with customary business practices, to compete for participation in such purchases or sales. (c) DGFT may, however, grant an authorisation to any other person to import or export any of the goods notified for exclusive trading through STEs. xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx Chapter 27 Mineral Fuels; Mineral Oils and Products of their Distillation; Bituminous Substances; Mineral waxes. S.No. Tariff Item HS Code Unit Item Description Export Policy Nature of Restriction 87 2709 00 00 .....

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ht in anyone to export crude oil. The said paragraph and Chapter provide that if STE itself wants to export/import, it can do so and if 'any other person' intends to import/export, it will have to apply to IOC, who will consider the same in its wisdom and after consulting anyone it deems appropriate. The ultimate decision to permit export/import is always a decision to be taken by the STE which is, of course, justiciable. Consequently, in the present case, it is for the IOC to allow or r .....

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nt case, the DGFT when approached by the petitioners in view of Clause 18 of PSC, sought a 'No Objection' from the Government of India, who in turn took a considered decision in the meeting of Empowered Committee of Secretaries dated 27th January, 2016 to reject the petitioners' request for export of crude oil. The said Committee consisting of the Law Secretary, Secretary, Petroleum and National Gas and Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance opined as under:- "1. As per the direct .....

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paramount for economic development and well being of the citizens of the country. All efforts would need to be made in this direction by the stakeholders so that the overall interest of the country in this regard is not compromised. 3. Contractual provisions of the Production Sharing Contract, earlier decisions of ECS, present status of crude evacuation from the block etc. were brought to the notice of ECS. ECS considered the request of the operator both from the macro perspective of country .....

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ude oil to the Government or its nominee to assist in satisfying the national demand. The operator of the block, CIL, has admitted vide its letter dated 14th August, 2013 that the export of crude oil is not in line with the PSC and has further mentioned in the said letter that it is only leasible to swap RJ-ON-90/1 crude with other crudes in international market, and provide them to Indian PSU refineries. 5. The Government nominates the PSU refineries to buy the crude oil produced under various .....

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ea. In order to overcome the technical constraint, the Operator approached the Government to approve as part of the Contract Cost, a special purpose heated pipeline for transporting the crude oil from the Contract Area to Salaya at Gujarat coast. The proposal of the Operator was approved by the Government. The Operator laid the pipeline and recovered the cost of the pipeline as part of the Contract Costs. 7. The Operator again approached the Government to permit it to sell the oil to private ref .....

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th Article 18.1 the Contractor is to sell the crude oil produced from the Contract Area awarded to them under the PSC, within the country when the country is not self sufficient and may export the crude oil only when the country becomes self sufficient. Article permits the Operator to freely sell (within the country) or export as the case may be, when the Government has elected not to purchase the crude oil. In the instant case, the Government has elected to allow the PSU refineries and Indian p .....

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who may like to export the crude oil on some pretext or other. Permitting the export of indigenous crude oil and import of foreign crude oil will also increase the cost of energy in India due to the unwarranted transportation cost on import and export. 10. The crude oil pipeline costing about US $ 1200 million was agreed by the Government to be made part of the Contract Cost to facilitate refining of crude oil within the country. 11. In view of the above, the Empowered Committee of Secretaries .....

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etary (Petroleum & Natural Gas) (Chairman) Sd/- Sh. Arunish Chawla (Joint Secretary (MoF) for Finance Secretary (Member)" 42. In the opinion of this Court, the reasons given by the Empowered Committee of Secretaries are legal, germane and valid grounds to decline the request for export of crude oil. In fact, the policy prohibiting export of crude oil has concurrence of all the departments of the Union of India and has nexus with the energy security of the country. It is pertinent to men .....

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arises is whether STE is bound to export crude oil at any third party's request dehors the embargo contained in the contract executed between the third party and the government. 44. Articles 1.63, 18 and 27.1 of the PSC which deal with domestic supply, sale disposal and export of crude oil and condensate are reproduced hereinbelow:- "ARTICLE 1 - DEFINITION xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx 1.63 "Self-sufficiency" means, in relation to any Year, that the volume of Crude Oil and Crude Oil eq .....

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nsate in order to assist in satisfying the national demand. 18.2 Pursuant to Article 18.1 and subject to Article 18.4, the Contractor shall sell to the Government [or its nominee] its total Participating Interest share of Crude Oil and Condensate to which it is entitled under Article 14 and 15 at the price determined in accordance with Article 19 for sales to Government and the Government shall purchase the whole thereof at the said price. 18.3 If, during any Year, India attains Self-sufficiency .....

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to purchase by giving notice to the Contractor as provided in Article 18.4. 18.4 Following the service of notice under Article 18.3 that India has attained self-sufficiency, the Government shall have the option but not the obligation to purchase all the production in a particular year of crude oil and condensate from a Development Area representing the Contractor's Participating Interest share of Cost Oil and profit Oil. The Government shall indicate whether or not it intends to exercise its .....

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l and condensate in respect of which it has or is deemed to have elected to exercise its option to purchase. 18.5 All payments in respect of sales to the Government pursuant to provisions of this Article 18 shall be made by the Government within thirty (30) days of the date of submissions of an invoice. Each Party constituting the Contractor shall submit invoices on or after the first and fifteenth days of each Calendar Month (or at such other intervals as may be agreed with the Government) for .....

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due date, bear interest calculated on a day to day basis at LIBOR plus two (2) percentage points from the date due until paid. 18.6 If full payment is not received by a Party constituting the Contractor when due as provided in Article 18.5, such Party may at any time thereafter, notify the Government of the default and unless such default is remedied within fifteen (15) days from the date of the said notice, the Contractor shall have the right, upon giving written notice to the Government: a) t .....

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ment plus interest is not received by each Party constituting the Contractor within one hundred and eight (180) days from the date the said payment was due, to receive and sell (including sale for export) the Government's share of Profit Oil until such time as either the value of the Government's share of Profit Oil so sold by the Contractor determined by applying the price calculated in accordance with Article 19.3 is equal to all amounts due in accordance with Article 18.5 plus the tra .....

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Oil sold, determined as aforesaid, exceeds all such amounts including interest, the necessary adjustment shall be carried out to refund to the Government forthwith the excess amount received by the Contractor. 18.7 The Contractor shall be entitled to freely lift, sell and export any crude oil and condensate which the Government has elected not to purchase pursuant to this Article 18, subject to Government's generally applicable destination restrictions in respect of countries with which the .....

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g the succeeding Year, based on a maximum efficient rate of recovery in accordance with good petroleum industry practice. No later than thirty (30) days prior to the commencement of each Quarter, the Contractor shall advise its revised estimate of production for the succeeding Quarter. 18.9 Each Party constituting the Contractor shall, throughout the term of this Contract, have the right to separately take in kind and dispose of all its share of Cost Oil and Profit Oil and shall have the obligat .....

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ondensate as is required to be purchased by the Government pursuant to Article 18 [notwithstanding any notice served pursuant to Article 18.6] and shall have the obligation to lift all of the same on a current basis and in such quantities so as not to cause a restriction of production or inconvenience to the other parties and shall compensate the other parties for any permanent loss of production or additional expenses cause by failure to do so, subject to Article 31. 18.11 For the purpose of im .....

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y the Government, and by each Party constituting the Contractor, to the Operator, of its expected of take and consequences of inability or failure to offtake. xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx ARTICLE 27- TITLE TO PETROLEUM, DATA AND ASSETS 27.1 The Government is the sole owner of Petroleum underlying the Contract Area and shall remain the sole owner of Petroleum produced pursuant to the provisions of this Contract except as regards that part of Crude Oil or Gas the title whereof has passed to the Contractor .....

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ear. Article 18.7 itself makes it explicit that it is only when the Government has elected not to purchase, the petitioners shall be entitled to freely lift, sell and export any Crude Oil and Condensate. Consequently, attaining self-sufficiency is a precursor to trigger the right of the petitioners to seek permission to export their participating interest/share of crude oil and condensate. 46. Moreover, Articles 18.10 and 18.11 provide that if the Union of India fails to lift or does not exercis .....

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, 2013 had itself requested the Government to permit swapping of crude oil in International market as it agreed and admitted the true position of interpretation of PSC as understood by the parties in the following terms:- "With the commissioning of offshore loading terminal, we will be able to load aframax class vessels [600,000 bbls capacity] and effectively gain significant access to international market. Since export of crude oil is not in-line with the PSC, it is only feasible to swap R .....

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present one) entered by the UOI with private contractors (like Petitioners) has already been interpreted by the Supreme Court in the case of Reliance Natural Resources Limited vs. Reliance Industries Limited, (2010) 7 SCC 1 wherein the Supreme Court has unequivocally held that by application of the public trust doctrine and by applying the correct import of the word "Vest" appearing in Article 297 of the Constitution of India, the oil and gas produced by the contractors from any field .....

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to be used for the benefit of the citizens of the country and has to be necessarily sold in the domestic market till India achieves self sufficiency. 50. This Court is also of the view that the Empowered Committee of Secretaries in its meeting dated 17th August, 2009, did not give the right to the petitioners to export crude oil. In fact, in the said meeting the petitioners, themselves, proposed to the respondents to approve the delivery point at the outlet flanges of the delivery facilities bei .....

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ke the maximum quantities by PSU refineries, teh private sector refineries have agreed to offtake 60,000 bbls/day by each of the refineries viz. Essar and Reliance. The Salaya terminal (AGI 33) on Mangala Development Pipeline is located at a distance of 4 km from refinery gate of Essar. A new Intermediate delivery station (AGI 32A) on Mangala Development Pipeline is proposed and is located about 10 Km from Reliance Tank farm. At Salaya, intermediate pigging station and heating facilities have be .....

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portion of the decision of the Empowered Committee dated 17th August, 2009 is reproduced hereinbelow:- "6.5 After detailed deliberations, ECS recommended the following proposals for consideration and approval of Minster (P&NG): (i) To ascertain from the private sector refineries on the additional quantity of crude that can be allocated to them based on technological upgradation undertaken by them and thereafter, to allow marketing freedom to the contractor under RJ-ON-90/1 PSC to sell t .....

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ed crude price determined under the PSC, which will be used for all calculations under the PSC such as cost petroleum, profit petroleum, royalty etc., (iii) Any consequential change, which may arise in the implementation of the ECS decision, will be made by the administrative Ministry. 52. Consequently, in the aforesaid Minutes of Meeting no permission to grant export of crude oil was granted to the petitioners. Even if it is assumed that the requirement of India having attained self-sufficiency .....

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